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ESKIMO

The Residents

RIO/Avant-Prog


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4 stars Hallelujah! Glad to see The Residents on ProgArchives. Truly one of my favorite bands. I will keep any reviews fact based, not fan based.

ESKIMO is an excellent work of art, fully engaging the listeners imagination as it takes you into the lives of the folks near the top of the world. Designed to be listened to while reading the stories, it is more of a soundscape than a standard piece of music. Using chanting, Arctic winds and various sound effects it creates the atmosphere neccesary to follow the emotional plot. The descripition may sound off-putting, but it really works. I had put off listening to it for a long time, but once I had finished it I was stunned by how effective it is. It can be listened to without the script, an effect like... err, an early, less spacey Tangerine Dream, but to get the full effect do the whole experience. There is also a beautiful 5.1 surround mix on DVD through Ralph Records which adds images to the precedings.

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Send comments to DantesRing (BETA) | Report this review (#41031)
Posted Sunday, July 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
horza
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Back in the early 80's a friend of mine at Uni liked this band - I thought he was mad, his taste in music was petty out-there, and I considered this band some kind of publicity stunt trying to take the piss out of the music industry. Fast forward to the present day and I have to admit this album DOES have SOMETHING about it.

The opening track 'The Walrus Hunt' is hypnotic, disturbing and evocative. Full of white noise swirls and sound FX it transports you to an icy wasteland - it is a disconcerting musical EXPERIENCE. If those fiendish MK-ULTRA types had used this soundscape during their LSD experiments I'm sure some people would'nt have come out the other end sane. 'Birth' keeps up the paranoia and you strain to make sense of the treated 'vocal'. 'Arctic Hysteria' is pretty much an apt description of the third track. 'The Angry Angakok' defies description - just go with the flow - if you have listened so far you will feel impelled to continue anyway.

The last two tracks are 'A Spirit Steals A Child' and 'The Festival of Death'. The former is disturbing (no surprise) and is probably the music of choice for your friendly neighbourhood devil-worshippers (makes a change from Venom and PoS). The latter actually has something resembling music towards the end of it. Now - this band MAY be taking the piss - BUT you won't forget the first time you go on this ride. Disneyland in Purgatory.

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Send comments to horza (BETA) | Report this review (#74270)
Posted Friday, April 07, 2006 | Review Permalink
Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars First Encounters

Eskimo was my first encounter with the Residents, as part of my exploration into electronica in the late 1970s.

Like much electronic and world music, it's definitely not one for everyone - "Eskimo" is a broad-brushstroke pastiche of a "realistic" sound-portrait interpretation of tribal life in the Arctic circle.

Cold World Music

An icy wind blasts - strongly reminiscent of "One of These Days", but instead of the delayed bass line, we get a solo instrument with a haunting sound like a cross between a cello and a trombone, which is quickly joined by chanting, and an irregular splashing, like the oars of a boat. A solitary drum beats a steady pulse, and the walrus can clearly be heard to be bellowing during the struggle of the catch.

The icy wind continues to blow into "Birth", the percussion becomes a little more elaborate, and the chanting starts up once again A change in texture comes around 1:24 into this track, with a high synth sound with Mellotron undertones and more distinctly male chanting. A distorted voice then recites as a woman gives birth. A baby cries, in tones reminiscent of Pingu, and female chanting takes over.

The wind blows again, and "Arctic Hysteria" sets in by way of a seemingly randomly plucked guitar and a voice that could be female. This spirals out of control, higher and higher - presumably representative of the spirit of the afflicted person.

"The Angry Angakok" intensifies the tribal feel - but with increased cartoon-like feelings, albeit the rather disturbed cartoons you only see late at night after eating cheese.

"A Spirit Steals a Child" with its tuned percussion and ever more animated tribe voices is the closest the Residents come to playing actual music so far. The twisted crying child sound with the noises of the spirit flying around is a particularly disturbing highlight of this album, and recommended to anyone who enjoys getting a chilling scare out of their music - but those of a more nervous disposition may wish to stay away, unless, like me, they hear most of the "spirit" noises as either "Several Small Species of Furry Animals..." or some cartoon-like whale.

"The Festival of Death" is a direct continuation and development of all the previous ideas, culminating in actual music - the intention seems to be to create the longest "noise" intro in history and suspend the time it takes to break into anything resembling melody, harmony or form for as long as possible - leaving timbre as the most exposed and developed attribute, and rhythm the one lifeline.

Terminate and Stay Resident

It is kind of fascinating on first listen, but the novelty quickly fades. The humour is funny in a twisted kind of way - but there are only so many times a joke can be repeated, so I would file this under "listen infrequently" - but it's definitely worth hearing at least once.

It is, however, very limited in scope - intentionally, I might add - and as such I can only really recommend it to the curious and fans of anything that breaks the traditional mould.

Since the latter category includes most fans of Prog Rock, my rating is 3 stars - not an essential album, but for what it is, it's very, very, well done and well worth a listen.

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Send comments to Certif1ed (BETA) | Report this review (#86285)
Posted Wednesday, August 09, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Far, far from a rock album, a folk album, soul or even avant garde (!) This is simply the Residents, simple and true. Their weirdest concept, an albums worth of ceremonial eskimo music, chanting and dialogue. Or is it? I can hear sentences that has nothing whatsoever to do with Eskimos, but a lot to do with zany humour. Listen to the chanting in "FESTIVAL OF DEATH - ": "Coca Cola adds life". Is Coca Cola sponsoring death rituals in the frozen wastes of Canada??? Or the people singing what sounds like: "We see the sunshine in your eye, and fill our hearts with gloom..." from "BIRTH".

This record leaves you with a sense of dread, frozen earlobes and several very interesting questions, like: What were these San Franciscans on!! Listen to it with youir best headphones on, and you'll find yourselves transported to the tundras and icy fields in no time.

I love it anyway: 4,6/5.

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Send comments to brainway (BETA) | Report this review (#94720)
Posted Monday, October 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The word "unique" gets a new meaning listening to The Residents "Eskimo", no one ever will create an album like this again. You could consider this as a radio theatre play rather than a musical recording due to the lack of melody, which is replaced by random Eskimo chants and (often wind) sound effects. Occasionally there are instrument parts here, though mostly percussions, played by Henry Cow drummer Chris Cutler, or noodling acoustic guitar parts. The album has an horrific dark mood to it, and it's remarkable unpredictable and downright bizarre in a way never explored before; this is so original that it's scary. The stream sample featured here should give you an idea on how this one sounds. There are six songs here, each with a different theme to it that basically are explained in the song titles themselves, like "Birth", which features a bit freaky birth sounds, and "Walrus Hunt", which features lot's of walrus sounds (ulk ulk auh auh!! :P). This is not an easy listening album, in fact, it's rather opposite!

Either you love it or hate it. I'm more on the "love it" side actually. After repeated listenings and active listening and studying of the album it growed on me progressively, and even though this isn't a directly musical recording, this work still stand out as appealing for some, and it's a very rewarding album actually, though it heavily depends on how open-minded and alternative you are. It's definitely NOT for everyone, considering that this one might be one of the strangest and disturbing musical experiences you might stumble over, but it's worth a listen, just be careful!

Note: I suggest listening to this one at least 3-5 times before making an opinion on it, because even though you hate it at first, it might "click" on you suddenly!

4.5/5 (rounded up to 5* for being so original and unique)

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Send comments to Bj-1 (BETA) | Report this review (#96174)
Posted Sunday, October 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
MovingPictures07
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is an album that you'll never find ever again, even from the same band. The magic in this album can only be created and matched once, and this certainly is not for your average proghead. With that in mind, this album still deserves absolute masterpiece status as it is a very unique, accomplished work of art giving a bizarre yet intriguing insight into a whole other world. Doing a track by track analysis on this album would seem incredibly unfitting, as the album really flows as one piece.

This is definitely a case of you have to hear it and I often find this as one of the hardest albums ever to try to describe to anyone. The extremely odd chanting vocals, sound effects (wind, water, others), guitar noodling and occasional odd percussion set this up as one of the most accomplished and unique albums ever to be recorded.

In contrast to other Residents' albums which actually feature SOME recognizable form of music, though very twisted, to some people this may come across as a non-musical piece in the conventional sense. That much is true, but if you're really looking to hear something that will give you a completely new perspective on music and a journey that you will never forget, you must pick this up.

A masterpiece of music. Just be warned: This is not for the faint of heart.

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Send comments to MovingPictures07 (BETA) | Report this review (#188799)
Posted Tuesday, November 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars It's a bird, it's a plane, NO! ... it's just the wind...

Well that was basically my first impression upon hearing Eskimo for the first time. The music has a real ambient feel to it which makes for a great atmosphere but ultimately labels this release as an acquired taste-item. At the same time it seems that the overwhelming majority of people on this site would say that it's worth getting into!

The music here has a definite originality to it that surpasses pretty much anything else that the band has done. But it took me a long time to begin appreciating the album for what it was and not the Residents album I was expecting it to be. Still to this day I can't call Eskimo one of my favorite among the wide range of this band's releases but it's still worth the time and effort just to enjoy the wonderfully eclectic The Festival Of Death.

All that I can really guarantee is that it will take a lot of both time and effort to appreciate this music and I doubt that all too many people want to invest the two into this particular album. Good, but non-essential.

***** star songs: The Festival Of Death (10:28)

**** star songs: The Walrus Hunt (4:01) Birth (4:33) The Angry Angakok (5:20)

*** star songs: Arctic Hysteria (5:57) A Spirit Steals A Child (8:44)

Total rating: 3,89

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#255994)
Posted Monday, December 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
3 stars This is a weird (of course it's weird, it's the Residents - but this is even weird for them), but compelling album from the eyeball guys. The songs, while somewhat rhythmic and musical, tell the story of Eskimo (or Inuit, if you most) life, from birth to death. There are plenty of sound effects, and you definitely get a feeling of being in a very cold place. But at the same time, the album is very sparse, and does not really hold up under frequent listenings.

The lyrics are a mix of English, and what sounds sort of like the same gibberish the group created for the Mole series. It's bizarre, and sometimes fun, and sometimes annoying. Who wants to listen to a baby crying over and over?

On my ESD CD, they were generous enough to add the EP "The Replacement". This EP, recorded around the same time as the album, is much more like the albums the Resedents were making at the time. While it doesn't really fit with Eskimo, conceptually, it does provide some comic relief after the heaviness of the arctic experience.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#320104)
Posted Monday, November 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Hmmm, The Residents - if 'Progressive Rock' signifies boundary pushing, uniquely structured and crafted music (and then some), then these one-eyed monsters represent quite the summit. Flipping through a crate of LP's at a record fair, the four 'eyeball guys' artwork caught my eye. There were others, but this album looked compellingly weird. Or weirdly compelling. And the record is white. Either way, this is really different. The premise is the life-death cycle of the Eskimo. The inner sleeve contains amusing Eskimo information which is both believable and un-believable - 'A menstruating woman is not allowed to go outside without first bathing in the urine of a child'. 'Putrefied seal is a delicacy', 'Sharing of a wife is a sign of friendship' but then there's 'There's no theft, but murder is common' !!!!!!! Not sure if the instrumentation is that of the list, sounding like traditional Eskimo creations (or a convincing hoax ??) - 'Pooeye', a 3 - 5 note flute made from hollowed whale or walrus bone - 'Kooa', a plucked string instrument made of seal gut stretched over a dog skull sounding board......many others. The band has the help of CHRIS CUTLER (Henry Cow, Art Bears, most all R.I.O.) with 'precision drumming' (drums are sparse and subtle) and DON PRESTON (of Zappa's Mothers of Invention) providing 'inspired synthesising'. This 'music' sounds very Arctic, it's mostly atmospheric and textural, with some babbling and infant bleating in places. Wind blows through some tracks and there's some elaborate percussion here and there. Some of the 'Eskimo banter' is quite funny actually, more like Cave-Dwellers from the Peleolithic era. The 2 long pieces on side 2 are the most engaging, with the final minutes of 'The Festival of Death' sounding magnificent and celebratory - great tuned percussion arrangement and synth/flute melodies. Is this some kind of joke, or a well thought out conceptual piece of art ??? You decide. 4 stars.

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Send comments to Tom Ozric (BETA) | Report this review (#376666)
Posted Saturday, January 08, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Eskimo' - The Residents (7/10)

The Residents are a band- er, should I say 'art collective'- that prides itself on being weird, and often downright crazy. Through deceptively simple arrangements, this is a group that virtually defines what the term 'avant-garde' means to me. One of their best known works is 'Eskimo.' Like the majority of the music that The Residents have done, this album is wrought with simplistic arrangements, and a dose of surreal humour to boot. While it may work incredibly well on some albums by this band, 'Eskimo' comes across more as an album that probably sounded better on paper than it actually turned out.

Although the album is divided into six tracks, this album takes the form of a single journey through an arctic soundscape. Most of the play length is backed up by an incessant howl of the wind, the sort of generic wind sound that is also heard on Zappa's 'Don't Eat The Yellow Snow.' For all intents and purposes, this is simply a backdrop for the rest of the action during 'Eskimo.' Musically, The Residents rely on simple, droning instrumental arrangements in parts, but largely allocate their efforts towards vocals. These vocals are almost never melodic, and instead go the route of garbled spoken word, or chanting that seems deliberately reminiscent of Native American tradition. For the sake of atmosphere, 'Eskimo' does ride home on its otherworldly vibe, and the incessant nature of the ambiance seeks to keep a listener in its trance.

'Eskimo' is almost an album that I would label as being good for only a handful of listens. While much avant-garde music- and certainly work by this band- demands multiple returns by the listener, 'Eskimo's surreal shock value only degraded as I went back to it. The album sticks to one gimmick and does not tend to leave it. Not to mention that it seems like 'Eskimo' is trying to make fun of the aboriginals who live that life; the garbled pseudo-gibberish that The Residents speak in their chants is certainly interesting at first, but ultimately veers towards the shallow end of the pool. Creepy and odd, but there isn't much to 'figure out' inside the shell. An interesting effort from The Residents as always, but I do not find this album to be nearly as enduring as some of the other things they have done.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#572034)
Posted Sunday, November 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars The Residents break down the walls of musical convention and replace it with a haunting disconcerting glacial experience.

"Eskimo" is quite possibly the most original bizarre piece of music on an album in history. The music is undefined and extremely atmospheric. A great deal of the album is made up of chilly icy winds and vocal intonations that may or may not be real Eskimo language. Some of the music is played on home-made instruments to give it that primitive tribalistic feel. The nonsensical gibberish is purportedly not really Eskimo Inuit language but it is effective enough. While the album plays, one is instantly transported to the frozen tundras of the Arctic wasteland among the Nanook tribes. This glacial landscape music is cold, stark, rhythmless and incongruous, but I was compelled to listen as the tale unfolded. The story is documented effectively on the DVD that features the same music as this with a narrative style, some weird animations and icy blue stills of the tribes plight as they battle mystic spirits to retrieve a child taken by a spiritual force. The project could be mistaken for actually representing a real life account of the lives of the Nanook people but it is not meant to according to The Residents. The liner notes of the booklet and the DVD make some sense of all the music and it is worth reiterating this here in detail to enhance this very surreal experiential music.

It begins with 'The Walrus Hunt' where the hunters track down the seals and bludgeon them for food. It then moves seamlessly to 'Birth' where the mother prepares for birth. The ceremonial band play birth music outside the icy cave, and the women soothe her with song. The mother moves through the crystalline cave while the men played a kooa to chant for a boy. The magic man, the Angakok, fills the cave with protective prayers, which I found disturbing, She finally gives birth to a baby, complete with wailing and moaning of the actual birth and then the cry of the newborn on the soundtrack. The sex of the baby is determined, and the baby is removed by the women. Darkness comes across the icy wastes and the music takes on a haunting chill with howling winds and the pounding rhythms of the kooa and primitive drums.

'Arctic Hysteria' begins and the woman in the cave hears the eskimos packing the ice down and she thinks they are under the impression she is dead. The rhythm of death and song of farewell is heard as a mournful chant, very disconcerting music by The Residents. The woman is spiritually sent to the land of the Crestfallen snapping at butterflies, and here the music takes on a very eerie discordance. The butterflies become locusts and then the men become aware of the woman's suffering and sing a chant of releasement; "Chukaroq". The ice closes in and prevents the hunters from catching the large migrating whale. The music is as glacial as it can be and whale song is heard.

'The Angry Angakok' has the magic to remove the ice blocking the way and the people are angered he refuses to intervene. This section of music is unsettling as some preternatural sounds emanate. The hunter challenges the Angakok and his followers respond with a chant, "necki, necki, necki", and they are silenced with a single utterance. The Angakok speaks a spell and the ice cracks followed by a snake standing on the water wiggling with its head in the clouds. It is like a tornado and it causes calamity through the ice floe and the hunter is buried in ice.

The music moves to the most disconcerting passage 'A Spirit Steals a Child'. The music takes on a dark resonance as it depicts the eskimos blowing up and inflating the whale bladders in a ritual. The bladders are thrown into the ice holes so that the spirits would be captured and return the next year. In the excitement a child is left unattended and a spirit rises up of a weeping seal and engulfs the child despite the Angakok's chanting magic. The chant is creepy on the soundtrack and the howling wind sends a chill through the listener. The tribe head off on dog powered sleds to find a cavern of the netherworld where they could break the spell. There, a dog is decapitated and its head is taken into the cavern. The Angakok conjures up the spirit of the weeping seal and demands it return the stolen child. A spiritual battle ensues with the dog's and seal's spirits fighting over the child.

This leads to 'The Festival of Death' where an evil spirit-man appears with a massive head. He is joined by others who tell the terrified hunters, "we have stolen the sun and you must now live in darkness." The dead spirits are frightened off by the women emerging from their igloos beating their chests and claiming their right to life. They all sang a hymn asking the dead to return the sun to the mothers of the snow. The music becomes more rhythmic here after all the chanting and bizarre noises. The men remove their dead spirit masks and join the women in the festive ritual with hand clapping games.

The Residents are always prone to be whimsical if given a chance, parodying themselves and the music they play. It is at this point that the whole thing becomes an elaborate joke as we hear the high chanting "Coca Cola adds life!" and later they chant "we want Coke, yeah!" on the DVD the polar bear with the coke bottle appears and it really throws me for a loop after all the spiritism and Eskimo rituals previously. The music builds to a happier tribalistic percussion as the sun's rays come through after 6 months of icy darkness. "Gratefully the dead have released their hold once more", is written. Music like a Gamelon or some primitive instrument is heard and incoherent growls make up the wintery soundscape to end this extraordinary piece of music.

At the end of this, after being aware of the story via the DVD and notes, I am quite impressed at the entire concept and yet it leaves me pondering what it is all supposed to mean. It is such a challenging conceptual album, very bleak and alienating with extreme anti-music and avant garde musical figures. The Coca Cola insertion makes it seem rather a parody and yet it contains some very serious passages of music that are unsettling but compelling at the same time. Like all Residents projects this is not going to appeal to all tastes and in fact some may not get through all the chanting and mumbo jumbo. A lot of passages are atonal and have no music, just whistling wind and groans. If one can sit through this it is apparent that The Residents will cease to shock after such a fiercely original approach. I have heard at least 7 Residents albums but I have never heard anything like this. But although it is difficult to recommend such high strangeness, I can still admire the album for its unashamedly courageous approach to the medium.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#765935)
Posted Thursday, June 07, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's always a case of 'pray as you enter' with the Residents.

The best thing about them in the 70's is that you'd no idea where they were going next. They were totally spontaneous and unpredictable from one album to the next.

'Eskimo' is a tough one to get into. There are no melodies at all, just whistling wind sounds, some percussion, occasional keyboards and loads of superstitious Eskimo vocals that sound like a toned down 'Several Picts Grooving...' from Floyd's 'Ummagumma'.

The liner notes really help though. In particular where we're told of 'spirits stealing children' which is accompanied by tiny wailings in falsetto voices. The sound of bursting walrus bladders is another part that made my hair stand on end.

'Eskimo' strides from 'Easy Listening' to 'Japanese torture' from track to track leaving me utterly bewildered like no other album in their entire catalogue.

There's lots of studio trickery involved in 'Eskimo' and it isn't as minimal as your ears would first believe. More importantly - (top) hats off to the Residents for this innovative and far reaching idea that no one had, or ever has attempted to investigate since.

Odd and intriguing and without bass or guitars. This is the only 70's Residents album that can be listened to in bed at night as you try to get to sleep. It'll give you queer nightmares though, where you eat triangles and hurdle jump bees, but it does flow very nicely in an atmospheric way. Borderline madness which is best listened to with a set of headphones on whilst reading the hefty booklet.

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Send comments to Dobermensch (BETA) | Report this review (#775485)
Posted Thursday, June 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars When any average western guy/gal listens for the first time lets┤s say; to chinese music; either he/she has to adapt to the their aesthetic canons to understand/enjoy or dismiss as if insulted or ignore the whole thing and skip the trip. The Residents canons are like these exactly! (Even to RIO people and of course "Zappans"). But the Residents have all the right! They were the other guy that was nurtured from the she-wolf. Because yes!; RIO as any other aesthetic movement had a clear goal where they were headed. That is why they are referred as: ROCK IN OPPOSITION. But as any other Art movement they had to set their boundaries not to be mistook for the guys they opposed to; so they have basic goals to protect; so they have to turn fundamental or in plain english "close-minded". The worst part is that the opposition was based basically on the aesthetics of "central european musical canons" which the whole world is kidnapped by. . BUT the world is wider when it comes to aesthetics. Quiet funny also that two of the "I don┬┤t care" founders of this tag come from America the USA to be exact way back in 1970. So Zappa as fun as he sounds; was opposing those "impossed" cental-european "Classical" music canons; He was a well versed "School-taught" musician who played irreverent clever "Rock n Roll" because for him it was irrelevant; " a way to get money!"; The real goal was the bombing of " serious classical european music aesthetics" But the RESIDENTS were the other guy who suck on the she-wolf- More close to any common non school-taught-musician; they dared to re-construct a whole new musical language from scratch ("Esperanto" like); skipping school they set their endeavor in a world that technically speaking was full of toys. Good reference as in "play". Such a vast quest led them eventually to aesthetics from different cultures. Eskimal music; in this case; to which for any average westener is even stranger (minimal and gutural) than chinese. So as any prog audiophile will understand this is going to be fun. The less funny Resident album to that date: even respectful to eskimal canons without stopping to sound like themselves. "Eskimo" is an intense;eerie dark white trip to the end of the world accompanied by the weirdest "non-musical band" of them all. Like going to Alaska with a chinese translator.....Enjoy! 5 Stars. For the mere undertaking and the incredible results.

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Send comments to admireArt (BETA) | Report this review (#976330)
Posted Tuesday, June 11, 2013 | Review Permalink

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