The Residents – Part Two

The second and final installment on my overview of The Residents work. If you’ve not read it yet, check out part one.

Oh…1990s Residents. This is where we see concept overreach musical execution. It’s a shame, as we end up with some of the most interesting ideas being explored over these albums, and the band embracing the new MIDI technology is certainly admirable. They also embraced video gaming in a big way, and over the course of three albums (starting with 1991’s Freak Show and ending with 1996’s Have a Bad Day) created several ambitious multimedia pieces that are hard to separate from their interactive counterpart. The only one that properly approaches a standard game would be Bad Day on the Midway – for which Have a Bad Day is the soundtrack. I’ve played it several times (it’s a timed game so you have to play several times to discover the stories for all the different characters) and thoroughly enjoyed it, but separating the music from the game unfortunately severely impacts it. This is really noticeable for me when I listen to 1994’s The Gingerbread Man, as I’ve not played the game. Given the music involves reinterpretation of the same motif over and over again, it can get a little grating and even boring. I only wonder what it would be like to engage with the entire work.

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The Residents – Part One

Samuel Beckett’s play Not I finds the stage immersed in complete darkness apart from a single spot of light covering an actresses’ mouth, which utters a four part monologue. Then the play ends. I am a huge fan of Beckett’s novels (I also love Waiting for Godot – I just haven’t read or seen any of his other plays), but even reading about Not I makes me wonder: would I enjoy this play? I might admire Beckett’s continual honing of his singular, existential idea down to something as small as a light on a woman’s mouth, but am I literally going to enjoy sitting in a theatre, watching a play comprising of just that?

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Echoes and Dust: Univers Zero


I wrote a feature article for the website Echoes and Dust on a band I thought could use a little more attention, the avant-garde Belgian group Univers Zero. I look over some of their key albums over the years, and it was a lot of fun (albeit an odd, creepy bone-chilling sort of fun) going back through their discography.

You can read the entire article here.

A Prog Supreme: Magma in the 70s

Magma article

Originally written for Prog Zone Magazine in April 2013.

While many progressive rock bands owe a debt to the classical and jazz music that came before, few were as successful at combining both styles simultaneously as the French band Magma.  Their unique sound arose from the brain of drummer, vocalist and main composer Christian Vander in response to the death of jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. Coltrane’s themes of spirituality and transcendence (most obvious in his later albums A Love Supreme, Ascension and Meditations) persist throughout all of Magma’s works, even as their sound changed to further incorporate classical and operatic influences – those of Carl Orff in particular. Vander unified these influences with an ambitious sci-fi concept that lead to the most controversial aspect of Magma’s sound. All the albums (excluding a one-off flop in the 80s) are sung in Vander’s invented language: Kobaïan.

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