Sound: Eskimo is usually referred to as The Resident's masterpiece. And it is not an exaggeration! It is their most unique, artistic, and actually less sinister and fun album.
Eskimo is based off about 80% sound effects from homemade instruments and synthesizer effects. These sounds vary from wind makers always at the beginning and end of songs, nasally vocals with grunts and chants, and a variety of whistling instruments. The other 20% has note quality to it, like synthesizer, (in Birth and The Festival of Death), a marimba type instrument with other percussion with tone/note quality, (especially in The Festival of Death), and a jumbled up guitar, (beginning of Artic Hysteria).
The music as a whole has no beat, but is catchy in its own way. The strange effects always leaves one to think how these sounds are being produced. Also, the sounds makes it feel like you are actually in the Artic. And when note quality does appear in the occasions, they are very peaceful and adds beat sometimes. The percussion with note quality sounds very native, (perfect for the overall album theme.) The only problem is it is hard to take an immediate liking to the songs. Usually, only hardcore Residents fans take a liking right away. With no beat, these songs don't get stuck in your head at first. But take some time, and you start to see the cleverness in the songs and some might get stuck in your head to replay over and over again. That's a feeling I love!
One slight other dissapointment was discovering that The Residents didn't create all the music. Snakefinger played guitar, Chris Cutler played the variety of drums, and Don Preston played synthesizer.
The best song was without a doubt The Festival of Death. This song is like a comedy almost. (The original definition of comedy was a story beginning in hell and misery, but ending happily.) At first, there's a droning bell and a dark whistling sound with a thick, low drum backing it up. Then, there's a strange chant with crazy voices that leads into a synth-flute solo. It gets slightly friendlier as you hear clapping hands with more silly chants. Then, the marimba-type instrument kicks in. And lastly, the synthesizer slowly moves in, at first subtle, then it gets more obvious and dominant. The sound is so electronic, peaceful, and psychedelic like your gliding in air. Truly a perfect conclusion for the album. // 10
Lyrics: Such beautiful lyrics... oh yes... words like "oooO! ooooO! ooooooAhhhh!," "magy rop yekky yargh," and my favorite: "AAAh wahhh!" Okay seriously, the only real lyrics on this album are grunts, whines, and whistles. The lyrics are supposed to represent Inuits, children, women, and the Angakok. I think the grunts and other voice sounds are supposed to be humourus though. I heard that the vocals were all done by inhaling to make quirky sounds! Also, since the album Duck Stab/Buster & Glen was so popular, they had sarcastically announced that their next album would be "an album of wind noises and grunting." (How can you not love this band?!)
Now the real words to the song is the story line. Although the story line isn't sang or read out loud in the songs, it comes in the Eskimo album booklet or from the movie. The story line seems pointless and insignificant, but it connects to the songs. If you scan the story while listening to one of the songs, you understand what the sounds are illustrating. The songs are sweet as they are, but the stories make it so much more enjoyable to listen to. And it gives a different feeling not usually experienced with music: a rich visualization in your mind.
I really don't suggest this album to beginner listeners to The Residents. It really takes time to appreciate their style by listening to their other songs before listening to this album. Otherwise, the sounds/vocals they make just might bug the heck out of you! // 10
Overall Impression: Avant-garde music has a common, reappearing criticising statement that is always said by someone, "That's not music, that's just sound effects and noise!" This album proves the point that music can indeed be strange sound effects. After all, isn't music in definition the organization of sounds? And even though the effects on this album sounds jumbled and unorganized, you can tell it's organized once you connect it with the story line. You may call this album pretentious, but all the band is really trying to do is have fun with experimenting. And it's actually pretentious of a person to not call this album "music".
This album is by far their masterpiece. It has elements of their signature sound while still sounding different from their other albums. It gives of strange feelings rarely experienced with other music. And although the album might be hard to tolerate at first, it will grow upon you if you're a fan of experimental music and have an open mind. // 10