Eskimo (1979)

Hard to get into, because you really can't tell this is music. But be warned: it's also hard to get this out of your mind again … Put this onto tape. Get yer walkman. Drive to a desolate, snow covered wilderness, and enjoy! This is the sort of sound that the Hunters soundtrack should have been like. It might not be "music" to most people, but allow yourself to slide into it, and the rewards are superb. An extremely difficult (if not impossible) album to get into … oddly enough, one of their most popular albums!

Three years in the making, this album is a collection of "arctic soundscapes", with occasional outbreaks of gorgeous melody among the tribal drumming, guttural "eskimo" voices (which if you listen carefully are chanting things like "Coca-Cola adds life") and the ever present icy winds. Some tracks are amusingly absurd, like one depicting a thrilling chase across the snow complete with barking dog sounds and cries of "mush! mush!", while others such as Birth are very moving. The album is sparse and sometimes disturbing but finishes with one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever, Festival Of Death. The Residents recommend when listening to this album that a relaxed state of mind is essential and that warm clothing or a blanket should be within easy reach.

Even though, with the preceding five albums, The Residents had established the pattern of each release sounding nothing like its predecessor, Eskimo is still a surprise. Along with Not Available, it is unlike the first four (released) albums which can be seen as a collection of separate sides. NA and Eskimo are complete works, and the extended period of concentration required pays big dividends as the intricate sound-worlds, conjured up on the records, unfold and spread out before your ears. A masterpiece. And, in its original white vinyl, gatefold cover release, form and content blend to produce perfect packaging.