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The Residents - The Ughs CD (album) cover


The Residents



3.37 | 18 ratings

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4 stars Some years ago, The Residents put together some music that was supposed to be part of a new project similar to 'Eskimo' which was released way back in the 70s. This new project was called 'The Ughs!' and The Residents were going to dress up like the characters this was based on. For some reason, that idea was dropped and the basis of the music was used for a new project called 'The Voice of Midnight'. That particular project was used and released in 2007. When 2009 came around, The Residents needed some new ideas, so they revisited the original recordings and found they sounded completely different than the finished product for The Voice of Midnight, so they though, why not go back to the original 'Ughs!' Project. Thus this mostly instrumental album was released. I say mostly instrumental because, as in 'Eskimo', the vocals are done in the made- up language of the Ughs.

So, what can you expect from another release from the oddball eyeballs? Well, the unexpected is the usual answer. This unusual is made up of 10 interesting tracks, that are definitely off-kilter if you know not what you are getting into. But, now you have some idea. The music is definitely avant-ish in the same way as 'Eskimo' was. The starting track 'The Ughs' gives you a pretty good idea of what you will be hearing. People saying Ugh and other interesting noises going on is what this introductory track gives you.

'The Dancing Duck' has some quasi-chanting sounds and noises, plus a metallic instrumental sound which I have no idea how it was produced. You have flutes, chimes, and synth going on in there too, but the sound is quite tribal, and not really that bad. Where 'Eskimo' seemed almost to be an unintentional masterpiece, The Ughs gives you the feeling The Residents know what they are doing now. All of these unconventional instruments and sounds (including a processed quacking duck or something) play around a melody delivered by a flute and some other sort of tribal instrument accompanied also by tribal percussion.

'Floating Down the Nile, Pt. 2' uses a cool guitar sound that gives a sliding effect. A percussive bell rings in the background as a more traditional sounding guitar repeats the melody, and this is again repeated with both guitar styles and a violin. The tempo is dirge-like, or a slow processional march. Later, there is more tribal percussion as interesting sounds and textures are used coaxed out of traditional instruments and what-not. A tribal vocal chanting follows the percussion pattern.

'Squeaky Wheels' sounds like a melody made from . . . well, squeaky wheels. That's how it starts, but it quiets quickly with a throbbing beat and a melody from a reed instrument, a sitar and atmospheric synths. Grumbling vocals stay somewhat subdued.

'The Lonely Lotus' establishes itself with a 'hooting' sound pattern and a shrieking guitar is played. Later, other tribal sounding instruments are used, but things are kept somewhat ambient as interesting instrumental sounds take turns. After a few minutes, a rhythm is established and all of the sounds come together in a melodic theme. Then the hooting melody comes back accompanied by timpani and piano. This establishes a base for other interesting things to occur around, the influence of oriental or Indian music is obvious.

'Rendering the Bacon' begins with a low drone and soon a juice harp (or something similar) is used. Beastly sounds come in and percussion and more interesting instruments are used to establish a theme that recurs throughout the track. Towards the middle, things get more odd and minimal as odd vocal sounds and thumping come in. The thematic elements come back later with more intensity.

'The Horns of Haynesville' comes in with tribal percussion again and a high Tarzan-like squeal. More odd vocal noises are emitted. At this point, the novelty is starting to wear off as this goes on for a while, but then some unique instrumental sounds are introduced, but things remain peaceful as you hear crickets and birds in the background. A more succinct vocal melody comes in and is repeated between two vocalists, then more vocalists join and the raspy blare of a metallic sounding instrument repeats. Other chants and singing come in, but the overall feel is still somewhat peaceful even with some of the harshness of the instruments. This one meanders on too long at over 10 minutes though without much change in overall style.

'The Wondering Jew' starts out with soft atmospherics, but a sudden crash of percussion made my cat jump just as she was settling into the music. After peeling her claws out of my leg, the music starts to feel more dramatic with a synth led crescendo. But this soon quiets down to tropical sounds and a lute sounding instrument establishes a chord pattern while reeds play. Finally after 3:30, an interesting percussion pattern and mellotron take things over keeping the dramatic feel of the music.

'Charlie Chan' is an out-of-place title for this one, as it starts with a mid-eastern vibe. What is surprising is how they make layers of this strange instrument into harmonies. Processed vocals stay in the background of this mostly well-orchestrated percussive track. Processed chanting and weird vocals continue.

My cat left the room giving me an odd glare.

The last track is the 10 minute 'In the Dark'. It starts with an upbeat percussive pattern and low ebbing drones. More interesting and odd noises and textures continue. After a while, an orchestral vibe is introduced, probably produced by synths. Ominous drones and sounds of thunder follow with subdued percussion. As things continue, so do the tribal sounds and textures.

It is good to hear The Residents actually taking things seriously in the album, and it seems a lot of work and effort went into this one with the nice orchestration and use of different instruments and sounds. There is a problem in this album with some passages lasting too long, and things do sag a bit in the middle of the album. But, for the most part, interest in what is going on does tend to come back in the end. The album is surprisingly good, seriously experimental, and well produced. Yeah the sounds at times can be comical, but there is a personality to this album and to the 'culture' the band has made up that makes you feel like they really came close to another masterpiece like 'Eskimo'. Like I said though, it is easy to let your interest slip on some of the longer passages, and in places where not much happens in the music. But I have to say that this is one of The Residents better albums that is more on the serious side of music and makes you think that maybe they really did know what they were doing all along.

TCat | 4/5 |


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