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on June 7, 2014
Spanish language mixed with Voodoo tribal jungle rhythms - it has to be The Residents.
The latest album from The Residents landed in my email box as a promo and I had to indulge having had some small experience with the band with 'Third Reich 'N' Roll', "Meet The Residents", 'Eskimo', "Not Available", "Lonely Teenager" and 'Commercial Album' from the past. Since then I had no idea where their musical direction had taken them but I expected a high strangeness and bizarre atonality with dissonant instrumentation and unsettling vocal intonations.
The new Residents sound is not quite as compellingly disturbing as their earlier material but they still know how to shatter the senses with unexpected splashes of discordance and unpredictable time signatures. They are always going to generate music outside of the box, and indeed often blow the box to pieces with their brand of anti-music.
'Coochie Brake' is made up of 11 tracks beginning with the Spanish murmurings of 'Theater Of Shadows' that didn't impress me at all. I prefer the weirdness of 'The Noche Called My Nombe' with shrieking sax sounds, out of tune synths and groaning vocals. The lyrics are all Spanish again which is unexpected.
'Gotta Believe' is more like the old Residents sound especially the tribalistic percussion and odd instruments. I like this creepy atmosphere generated which is unmistakeably Residents trademark sound.
'Rot Of Ages' has a shrilly effect like bats shrieking and Spanish vocals penetrate a bizarre musical foundation. The low key chants are like some weird cult ritual. This one is more disturbing and totally inaccessible. The remote vocals are disconcerting and overall this is Residents at their darkest best.
'Outside The Fence' has a clanking percussion and some explosives as a chanting drone and echoed Spanish are heard. It builds with menacing volume and I begin to wonder what is being said in Spanish. Perhaps it is better not to know. This sounds ominous and not one to play late at night.
'Tied To A Cactus' is a sound heard on many Residents albums, a bizarre electronic keyboard sound and some tribal tom toms. The ambience of sustained key pads are something unusual though and it works well as a foundation. There are lots of chants and out of balance vocals. However I am growing tired of the Spanish at this stage as I can't relate to it at all.
'Crocodile Tears' has a jungle swamp feel, with incessant birds and tropical rain. The atmosphere is strong and the Spaniard words ring out with some manic yelling. The guitars get heavier and sludgier and the words 'Crocodile Tears' are repeated. This is absolutely out of the box.
'Dead Man On The Floor' has some guitar sweeps and very morbid vocal technique mostly whispered Spanish.
'Runaway' is a good addition with the mantra growled out 'Run, run, run, runaway.' The music is as unsettling atonal jazz as it gets.
'Bitter Biter' is a heavier grind of distorted guitar, a fairly decent riff. The vocals switch from whispers to snarls. The music is excellent on this with slices of tuneless synth violins and groaning guitar string bends and piercing feedback. This is more to my liking as it is strangely compelling anti-music.
'Please Don't Go' ends the album and it needs something bold to wrap it all up. The whispers and fire with booming tom toms are atmospheric. The Spanish words are spoken in low key tones, until guitar, keys and percussion builds threateningly. I have no idea what it is supposed to mean but it again sounds like a bizarre voodoo cult of people gathered around a fiery pyre. The witch doctor whispers spells and unleashes damnation upon the unweary. It could easily be a soundtrack to a horror movie. Suddenly the song changes completely into an outbreak of loud guitars and pounding drums with an agreeable synth sound. Not one to play on your first date.
'Lying Horse Rock' is the bonus disk available but I haven't heard that so you will have to rely on others reviews to discover its secrets. Overall this new Residents album demonstrates the band have not sold out to one iota of commercialism, and in fact are disturbing and off kilter as ever. I am not hugely taken with the ideas on this album, preferring past material but at least this is unashamedly Avant and delivers powerfully in that regard. It will appeal to RIO Avant prog addicts and of course The Residents are eternally going to shake up boundaries of music, and we can only applaud them for their audacity to churn out so much of this over the years of their existence. 3 stars.