Brumalia (2004)

As Christmas 2003 approached, Big Brother told us all about the ancient festival of Brumalia, celebrated for thousands of years, long before anyone had heard of that Jesus guy.

Apparently, Winter was a scary time for our northern ancestors. The days got shorter and shorter and it got colder and colder. The trainspotters amongst then noticed that the days started to get longer a few days after the Winter Solstice and people realised that they would live to see another year. Party! The Christians just hijacked the celebration when they couldn't work out JC's birthday.

The Residents joined in 2003's Brumalia by giving visitors to the web site a new piece of music every day for 13 days as mp3 downloads.

Based on themes taken from the Twelve Days of Christmas and Demons Dance Alone, the music was a new direction for the Residents (hinted at in the Golden Goat release). It incorporated a DJ-based style of sampling, looping and remixing as well as renewed interest in playing with layers of sound textures.

Of course, the whole suite was laced with hidden messages and red herrings and is unmistakenly Residential in approach, although the uninitiated may be thrown off the scent by the rapid change in technology and the frequent dance-orientated rhythms.

But the album's greatest charms are its energy and sponteneity. It seems to me that this was an exiting and fun project to make, and the new equipment used to make it may be the main tool for the next few releases.

The album was re-released on CD before the following solstice, although it seemed that divine forces were trying to stop this Pagan tribute by sabotaging its manufacture.

It's all over again, only this time the end result is more coherant. Well, not that much more. There is a theme running through the album this time, but musically it's another skillful hodge podge a la WB:RMX. I think that album is stronger but there's some terrific stuff here too; a Partridge Family tribute (what took them so long?!), an atmospheric slice-of-strange-life about Wendy and her pets (I know you have to feed your dogs but really..), and lots of throw-it-in-and-see-what-happens instrumental pieces. Some of these are too disjointed even for my tastes while others, like track 10 with it's awesome keyboard work, are utterly top notch. Not their best album of course but it was never meant to be. What strikes me about the whole thing is that if you can afford, artistically, to give stuff like this away you must be some kind of a fricking genius. What am I saying? This is The Residents innit!