Legend has it that The Residents, sometime duirng 1976, were visited by their infamous mentor N. Senada, bearing a jar full of arctic air to be recorded along with some sound samples. This was the catalyst for what is possibly one of The Residents greatest musical achievements - Eskimo.
Unlike The Residents previous works, Eskimo is not an album of individual songs, but more of a collection of stories told through sound. Each track, along with the expository text on the album's sleeve, tells a story of Eskimo life. It's a collection of ambient sounds, howling arctic winds, minimialist, avant-garde Eskimo music, and tribal chants.
Actually, the sounds are a combination of The Residents homemade instruments, sound samples, and some synthesizer. There are few melodies, mostly ambient soundscapes. The vocals and chants are The Residents themselves, with their voices digitally manipulated into high pitched yelps, and deep growing grunts. The Eskimos actually sing in English, and as the album progresses, various catch phrases and slogans from popular culture slip in. (Such as The Festival Of Death's chants of Coca-Cola Adds Life).
The stories of the Eskimo on the album are fairly far removed from reality, and lean towards the pop culture perception of Eskimo life. The album begins with the story of a walrus hunt, and progresses to the finale - The Festival Of Death.
Of course, any node about Eskimo would have to explain the strange story leading up to its release. After the runaway success of Duck Stab, The Residents label, Ralph Records, and the business end of the band, The Cryptic Corporation began to promote them heavily. Fearing for their identity, they took the master tapes and disappeared. Desperate for material to release, Ralph put out the old album of material The Residents had made after Meet The Residents as Not Available (The album was not to be released until The Residents had forgotten about it, in accordance with N. Senada's Theory Of Obscurity.) The disappearing Residents story gave the band even more publicity, including a widely publicized tape exchange, in which the Cryptic Corporation recieved the master tape for Eskimo from a friend of the band. Eventually all was settled, and as an apology, The Cryptic Corporation gave The Residents their own 16-Track recording studio.
The album's artwork was also the first to feature The Residents newest costumes - tuxedos, top hats, and giant eyeball masks. This became the iconic idendity of the band (which would work against them in the future, however).
The album, despite fears that it would be dull and pretentious, was hailed as a new milestone in music. in its first six years, it sold 65,000 copies - more than any other album on Ralph Records. Fearing that success would go to their heads, The Residents remixed the album into a 7 minute disco song, entitled Diskomo. If you're at all interested in avant-garde, ambient, or unique music grab a warm blanket, a mug of hot chocolate and put on Eskimo.
1. The Walrus Hunt
3. Arctic Hysteria
4. The Angry Angakok
5. A Spirit Steals A Child
6. The Festival Of Death