Enter the name for this tabbed section: ESKIMO
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First Release
LP - 1979 - Ralph Records - ESK7906 - US
The Iceman Just Took A Turn For The Better (Eskimo)
September 26, 1979
eskimo-300x300
The new Residents album is such a departure from what they’ve been doing recently that I have trouble placing it into a coherent narrative of the band. If the liner notes are to be believed, this album began life three years ago, making it the third album (or the fourth, if the liner notes of Not Available are to be believed). It feels like closer kin to Fingerprince than Duck Stab, and it’s almost as if we are presented with an alternative history: what if The Residents were more interested in the second side of Fingerprince than the first?
And not only are we getting an alternative version of The Residents, but they are also giving us an alternative version of Eskimo culture. I don’t have the knowledge to debunk all of the claims this album makes, but I know many are untrue and there are clues throughout that The Residents are making a joke. But the Eskimo are not the target, only the vehicle. The Residents are satirizing how Western culture views anything other than itself.
The Other is always seen as isolated and bizarre, and any similarity is purely accidental and must be marginalized. Forty words for snow is often touted as a strange quirk of the Eskimo, but there are two reasons to question that claim. First – and most damning – where’s this list of forty words? The articles I’ve read that cover this topic only manage to provide about a dozen examples. Second – and this drives the point home even without the list – we also describe many different types of snow in English. Snow, sleet, hail, blizzard, flurry, slush. And when we run out of distinct words we use modifiers to extend the language. Packing snow, blowing snow, Spring snow, snowdrift. That’s just off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are many more. It should not be surprising if an in-depth study finds there is a direct mapping of snow words between both languages, but unfortunately that would make The Other more like us, and we can’t have that, can we?
The Residents know this, and have turned a critical gaze towards our own xenophobia. Eskimo is not about The Other, it’s about us and our distorted worldview. This record is being distributed in the continental United States, and though it may find its way into an igloo, we are the intended audience. Nowhere is this more evident than at the conclusion of the album when the ceremonial chants (probably having been fabricated the whole time anyway) are replaced with jingles for toilet paper and soft drinks. With that in mind, it’s clear from the cover that The Residents are looking at us and reflecting what they see. They may be wearing “penguin suits” but they are too conspicuous to blend with their surroundings (especially as penguins are found in the southern hemisphere). They represent us and our insincere, lackadaisical attempt to understand other cultures. The elements of the image add up to a formal, cold, uncaring gaze. There is none of the warmth that should accompany an exploration of a group of fellow humans. We don’t see fellow humans; we see The Other.
That’s not to say that the album would not be insulting to an actual Eskimo person. But the insult takes the form of being yet another misrepresentation by ignorant Americans. In other words, it’s nothing new to them, and that says much about how we already treat our fellow man.
As for the stories printed inside, they ring of enough authenticity to at least be inspired by true legends. But though they may be true legends, they are not true stories. Another society’s mythology should not be mistaken for fact any more than our stories of a giant lumberjack and his blue ox should be presented as truth.
Of all the albums I’ve heard that criticize American culture, Eskimo (though subtler about it) is the most scathing, making it the most “punk” record I’ve yet heard.

This is from
Gio's blog.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: credits - tracks
THE RESIDENTS
with guests:
Snakefinger
C. Cutler
D. Preston
Tracks:
• The Walrus Hunt
• Birth
• Arctic Hysteria
• The Angry Angakok
• A Spirit Steals a Child
• The Festival of Death
Enter the name for this tabbed section: additional notes
Note: The first pressing of 10,000 copies came on white vinyl and says "FIRST PRESSING - 1979" on the inside of the gatefold cover. The following 45,000 copies were on black vinyl. In 1980 the gatefold cover was eliminated for a standard record jacket and the Eskimo stories which were on the inside were moved onto the record sleeve.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: stories
STORIES

The Walrus Hunt
Walrus hunting in kayaks among the floating ice must sometimeproceed in the winter darkness or in a condition known as "whiteout" when atmospheric conditons turn the sky into a virtual mirror of the snow and ice below and orientation becomes difficult. At these times, women on shore blow a large horn made from a giant narwhal's hollowed tusk and chant to give directional orientation to the hunters.
Winter had almost arrived, for the wind had a more pronounced bite in itsinsistence. The noonday sun sat momentarily on the horizon before hastening back into the icy waters. Floating on the rising winds, the sounds of the narwhal horn and chanting combined to give assurance to the Eskimo hunters. The paddling of the kayak was smooth and steady. Not much light was left and a sleeping walrus could easily hide in the deep shadowed recesses of the floating icebergs.
But wait! There, on the ice... yes, a walrus! A happy but silentdiscovery. The sling-like harpoon was removed from its leather container and spun rapidly around over the hunter's head until sufficient speed was reached to send it zooming toward its unsuspecting prey. The walrus was hit. Cheers rang out from the men as they all paddled toward the animal which had plunged into the icy sea; but the water offered no protection as the Eskimo men reached for their whale bone clubs and bludgeoned the creature. The walrus floated quietly in the water and the kayaks moved on in search of other sleeping prey.

Birth
Since the most important person in the Eskimo community is thehunter, and since hunters are always male, female infants are ritually killed if there is no infant male who will someday need a mate to cook, sew, and chew leather for him. This social condition adds to the drama of birth.
The pains were coming in regular intervals and she knew that if she didn'tstart moving now, her legs might collapse under her before she could reach the ice cave. The ceremonial band was already playing birth music and the other women sang in an attempt to comfort her. But as her steps carried her toward the ice cave and the ceremonial band's music became lost in the wind. the true lonliness of her situation loomed even larger in her mind. The gaping mouth of the ice cave eagerly awaited. And although she felt fear, she knew the cave also offered relief from her quickening pains, for this journey had been made many times before.
Her pace remained unchanged as she entered the cave, which now enlargedbefore her and engulfed her in the sweet music of slowly moving ice vibrating within its own cristaline formations. Deeper into the cave she went. The men were playing the kooa and chanting for the birth of a male.
Finally she reached the furthest chamber where stood the Angakok. Deliverybegan immediately as the magic man filled the room with protective prayers. The child was born. The Eskimo woman reached forth with her hand, gently across the already frozen crust on the infant's belly to feel the child's sex; the other women came into the chamber singing the song of life and bore the infant away.

IF A GOOD HUNTER DIES, THE OTHER MEN CUT HIM UP AND RUB THEPIECES ON THEIR SPEARHEADS TO IMPROVE THEIR AIM.
BATHING IS DONE IN URINE.
ESKIMOS EAT ONLY MEAT, INCLUDING ROTTEN WALRUS, WHICH IS SAID TOTASTE LIKE CHEESE.

Arctic Hysteria
Arctic hysteria is a phenomenon that occurs in the dead of winter,primarily to women. The weeks of darkness and general sensory deprivation lead to the eventual temporary loss of a firm touch with reality.
Darkness prevailed everywhere. Beside her igloo, a woman sat in the windsinging softly to herself while beating the snow from her husband's seal fur clothing. Her voice and mind drifted with the soft tones of the nearby kooa player. Her song was about her work, but her unfocused eyes revealed a growing distance. The darkness seemed to confine her, and the singing voice seemed not to be her own.
The realization struck! "I am dead, or at least the others believe I am",she thought. Already she hears the pounding of the tribe's hands packing down the snow on her icy grave as they sing their song of farewell. The rhythm of death sounds in her ears.
She feels cold no more as her worst fears are realized. She has been sentto the "Land of the Crestfallen", where only the spirits of poor hunters and badly tatooed women spent eternity snapping at butterflies. But wait! Even worse! Instead of butterflies, the dreaded Arctic locust swarmed into the evening air devouring all in their path.
The men in the tribe had become aware of the woman's hysterical sufferingand joined in a circle to sing a chant of releasement. "Chukaroq, chukaroq, chukaroq, ei", they sang, until finally the woman once again returned to beating the snow mindlessly from her husbands clothing, virtually unaware of what had happened as her song of work faded into the wind.

WOMEN CANNOT GO OUT IN MOONLIGHT. ESKIMOS BELIEVE THE MOON ISMALE AND WILL IMPREGNATE WOMEN.
SOME NEWBORN INFANTS ARE KILLED SECRETLY, DRIED OUT, AND PLACEDIN A BAG WHICH IS WORN BY A PERSON OR STUFFED INTO A KAYAK NOSE. THIS IS SAID TO IMPROVE HUNTING.
A MENSTRUATING WOMAN IS NOT ALLOWED TO GO OUTSIDE WITHOUT FIRSTBATHING IN THE URINE OF A CHILE.

The Angry Angakok
Angakoks, the Eskimo men of magic. are widely held as symbols ofmortal power among the tribe, Stories of their feats are very popular at tribal gatherings.
The whales whistled as the Eskimo tribe danced on and on to the lively beatof the ceremonial band. For twenty days they danced. And sang. And prayed. And still the ice floe hugged the shore line preventing the Eskimos from being able to kill their most valuable prey, the large migrating whale. Anger had been building in the people towards the Angakok who allegedly had the power to remove the ice that was blocking their passage. Finally a hunter challenged the magic of the Angakok with hostile words, and others soon joined him in the traditional taunt of "necki, necki, necki", until the Angakok rose up before them and silenced them with a single cry. A spell escaped from his lips and the sky darkened. A curse slipped from his finger and the seas swelled. The ice was cracking at last. But that dull roar?? The Eskimos looked at one another with fear in their weathered faces. Then it appeared. A "giant snake which stands on the water" wiggled before them with its head in the clouds. They briefly watched it eat a path through the ice floe, then hysterically ran for safety. But the water spout had one more job to do. The hunter who challenged the Angakok's magic was never seen again.

IF AN ANGAKOK IS MURDERED, IN ORDER TO PROTECT HIMSELF FROM ITSSPIRIT, THE MURDERER CUTS OFF THE ANGAKOK'S TOES AND FINGERS AND PUTS THEM IN THE DEAD MAN'S MOUTH.
DEAD CHILDREN ARE BURIED WITH A DOG'S HEAD TO PROTECT THE CHILDIN THE AFTERLIFE.
IF CATASTROPHE IS IMMINENT, ALL IN THE SETTLEMENT EXCHANGE WIVESIN ORDER TO CONFUSE THE EVIL SPIRITS.
ESKIMOS HAVE WORDS FOR 40 VARIETIES OF SNOW.

A Spirit Steals a Child
One of the many strange Eskimo phenomena is the disappearance ofchildren. In such inclumate conditions one can easily understand how this can happen. However, Eskimo mythology speaks of children being stolen by the spirit of the weeping seal, which is half seal and half woman, and who, because she can have no children, must steal any she finds unguarded.
Pop! the bladders went. Hunting season had been good and there were manybladders to burst. The band played gleefully, eager to get to the next peak in the music so all could explore the inflated bladders the creatures which had fed and clothed the Eskimos all year. Finally, the music ended and everyone immediately ran toward the sea, eager to throw the burst bladders through a hole in the ice so the souls of the animals could return to the sea and be caught again next year.
Because of the excitement, an important Eskimo rule has been broken. Achild was left unattended. Tears froze on his cheeks as he stood crying behind an igloo. Suddenly, there was another sound in the wind. A whistle, a bark,. a growling whine filled the air around the terrified child, whirling him around in a flurry of ice.
The Eskimo soon returned to discover that the child was missing, andrealized the folly of their over-excitement at the bladder festival. The Angakok started a chant to halt the fleeing spirit, but he knew the chant would only delay the spirit of the Weeping Seal's complete takeover of the child. They would have to go to "the world beneath the world" and fight.
Several dog sleds sped away across the tundra, whips cracking at the barking dogs. On the lead sled the child's father and the Angakok crouched, defending themselves against the blast of Arctic wind. The ride was long and tiring.
As they neared their destination, the men sang a chant and the Angakok spokea spell. A dog which was brought before him was decapitated, and the head, still containing the dog spirit, was quickly taken down to the neather world, while the other dogs, smelling the blood fo their own kind, howled into the cold night. The Angakok raised the god head into the air and called forth its spirit to battlethe Weeping Seal and force it to return the stolen child.
The two spirits met and intertwined in the air. With the Northern Lightsthey danced and sang, and then they disappeared slowly as the men returned to their village in hopes that the child would be there.

The Festival of Death
Perhaps no holiday is more important to the Eskimo than the DeathFestival. More than a tribute to the dead, this festival marks the beginning of the yearly cycle by being held at the end of the six month Eskimo night.
Something moved in the dark. A face as tall as a man -- a big, round,evil face wandered at random. More faces and the realization: the dead walk the snow. Whistling and chanting, "We have stolen the sun and you will have to live in darkness".
But the women of the ribe, who were hiding in their igloos, then rushed outshrieking and beating their chests, proclaiming their right as the source of life. The dead spirits were frightened by the women and fled into the darkness. As the Eskimo band picked up their song, the women gathered in a circle, symbolizing nature's golden orb, and sang a hymn asking the dead to return the sun to the mothers of the snow.
The men, having removed their "dead spirit" masks, joined the women infestive songs and hand-clapping games until, at last, the first rays of sunlight of the Eskimo year began to appear over the horizon, signaling the end of six months of winter darkness. Gratefully, the dead had released their hold once more.

Epilogue
All the stories on this recording are expressed in the past tense,This is because the Eskimo, particularly the Polar Eskimo on which this album is based, was "rescued" from its "miserable" life style by welfare in the late sixties. The Polar Eskimo has been relocated entirely into government housing, and now spends most of the day watching reruns on TV.

ESKIMO IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED TO N. SENADA WHO STARTED THE WHOLE THING
Enter the name for this tabbed section: liner notes
ESKIMO
 
Created over a period of three years (work began shortly after The Third Reich 'N' Roll was released), Eskimo was unlike anything anyone had heard before. Instead of an album made up of songs, The Residents produced a series of acoustic landscapes: each track is the sound of a story taking place, rather than the traditional song telling a story. The idea for the album is supposed to have come from the band's former collaborator, the Mysterious N. Senada, who had disappeared in the early 70s to search for music among the Eskimos (legend has it that he re-appeared during the making of the album with a tape of sound samples and a jar of arctic air to record). The Residents teamed up with drummer Chris Cutler and Don Preston (formerly a keyboard player for Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention), as well as their regular collaborator, Snakefinger. Inspired by such pieces of pop culture as the famous Santa Claus Coca-Cola ads, The Residents set about inventing an anthropological background for their Eskimos which didn't bear much resemblance to reality, but instead was based on pop perceptions of the northern peoples (nevertheless, the USSR release was classified as a "cultural documentary"). Each track relates a story which was told in writing on the inside of the album's gatefold cover. The stories are progressively more complex and dig deeper into the fictional Eskimo culture, starting with a simple Walrus Hunt and ending with a confrontation with the spirit world and a Festival of Death celebrating the end of the six-month night.
The album shows, as did the mini-ballet Six Things to a Cycle on Fingerprince, the influence of Harry Partch. Like Partch, The Residents invented their own language and instruments. Most of the fake Eskimo tongue is made up of highly distorted English and is sung while breathing in to give it an alien texture. As the album progresses you can hear the slow invasion of American culture into the Eskimo lives as the Eskimo's spiritual leader, the Angakok, leads them in chants whose nonsense language becomes corrupted with phrases such as "Coca-Cola Adds Life".
Eskimo almost didn't happen. When Duck Stab turned into a big success, the Cryptic Corporation started to promote it heavily. The Residents became worried that the business may have been moving too quickly -- not to mention the possibility that the promotions might endanger their anonymity. The Residents were already somewhat afraid that Eskimo might turn out to be dull and pretentious so they grabbed master tapes and disappeared. Desperate for some material to release (the band disappeared the day before the tapes were to go to pressing), the Cryptics pulled an old master tape off of the shelves and released that instead. It was an unnamed album which was never meant to be released, dubbed Not Available by the Corporation.
It turned out that the group had flown to England and left the tapes with Chris Cutler. John Kennedy and Jay Clem of the Cryptic Corporation flew over to collect the tapes, which Cutler had been keeping at the National Safe Deposit Box Company in London. The New Wave press, which had become rather caught up in The Residents after Duck Stab, were quite keen on the whole "disappearing Residents" story, so the Corporation milked the event for its publicity value, playing up the mystery of The Residents' disappearance and releasing press photos of the tape exchange.
The Residents themselves weren't in England. They had apparently gone on to Japan, then reappeared in San Francisco shortly after the tapes were recovered. On their return, the Cryptic Corporation presented them with a new 16-track recording studio as an apology for the misunderstanding. To celebrate the reunion, the band used their new toy to recorded Santa Dog '78, which, along with the original Santa Dog was given away free as a single to everyone on the Ralph Records mailing list as a Christmas gift in a package which included the story of the disappearance.
When it finally did come out, Eskimo had one other eye-catching feature: it had the first cover featuring the Residents' newest costumes, the Eyeball heads. Originally the band had wanted silver spheres reflecting the arctic mists, but that idea proved impractical. The eye-heads, second choices though they were, turned out to be a powerful image: the costumes were so incredibly identifiable that they became the trademark look for the band. In spite of The Residents' fears about possible pretentiousness, Eskimo was a huge critical success. The music press in the UK loved it, hailing it as a huge milestone in the new music. Sales were phenomenal for an independent, underground album. The first pressing of 10,000 copies on snow-white vinyl sold out quickly. The adulation was so strong, in fact, that the band was afraid that their Eyeball-heads might get swollen from all the praise. To forestall this the band spoofed their own albums by creating a disco version called Diskomo. Released as a single, this instrumental work has gone through a number of revisions over its history.



UNCLE WILLIE'S HIGHLY OPINIONATED GUIDE TO THE RESIDENTS

In 1979 the big musical battle line was being drawn between the punkoids and the disco divas. There had never been such cultural tension since the wars between the surfers and the greasers way back in the early ’60’s. The Residents had passed their own punk stage in 1976 with the release of “Satisfaction” and were feeling that disco, while using the studio in new ways, did not actually offer much in the way of depth.
So they decided it was a good time to make the jump into world music, since by their own calculations it was not to become popular for several more years. They scanned the map for a proper culture to exploit and, not finding one, became discouraged until seeing a large Coke sign featuring Santa Claus. Immediately they realized they had overlooked the North Pole because it is made of ice and therefore not on their world map.
One can only imagine the glee with which they rushed out to the library to gather all they could find on Eskimos. What they found was a government-issued book on Eskimo sanitation, a book of Eskimo legends, and one scratchy record of someone hitting a drum and chanting. Not exactly the rich cultural vein they had hoped to mine.
But I guess it was enough, for it set the Eyeballs spinning off into their own imaginary world of six-month nights, frozen fish building blocks, and Eskimo sex lives. For almost four years the ideas tumbled around. Sometimes they would feel elated at some new breakthrough, but usually they moaned that the album would not only be dreary to listen to, but pretentious beyond belief.
Just as it was nearing completion, a late night listening suggested that it was going to need more work and they took the tapes and disappeared to England where they met up with friends for whom they played the tapes in hopes of gathering some unbiased opinions.
Respected musician and writer, Chris Cutler, who had played percussion on some parts of the album, took the masters to a bank vault and calmed the band down enough for them to remember that the album resulted from their decisions and a belief in the self is imperative, not the concerns of what others will think. Chris arranged for the masters to be returned and the album eventually came out.
Instantly it became a hit, both in sales and in reviews, Andy Gill of New Music Express in London said, “I’m not sure quite how to convey the magnitude of The Residents’ achievement with Eskimo. What I am sure of is that it’s without doubt one of the most important albums ever made, if not the most important, and that its implications are of such an unprecedentedly revolutionary nature that the weak-minded polemical posturing of purportedly 'political' bands are positively bourgeois by comparison.“
He says this because the album tells the story, without relying upon words, about the assimilation of a ritualistic society into consumer society . This story unfolds as Eskimo fables, a lived experience, set to the grinding of sound effects and music. It is a mind movie rich with detail. Eskimo is, quite literally, a unique experience.
- Uncle Willie



CD Liner Notes

North of Greenland, well within the Arctic Circle, and on the floating ice continent surrounding the North Pole, lived a nomadic tribe of Mongolian descendants known as the Eskimo. Their culture was passed down through generations in the form of adventurous tales and ceremonial music. This album attempts to recreate not only the Eskimo ceremonial music, but also a living context for its existence, in the form of Eskimo stories. Although on the disc, the stories are told purely with sound, a written account is provided to aid your appreciation of this unique culture. For maximum enjoyment, this record should be listened to with headphones while reading the enclosed literal accounts of what you hear. Eskimo should be played in its entirety. A relaxed state of mind is essential. Warm clothing or a blanket should be within easy reach.




In 1979 "punk" music was all the rage. The Residents had gone though the punk stage three years earlier with the release of "Satisfaction" and were ready for anything that was not punk.

They decided it was a good time to make the jump into world music, since by their own calculations it would not become popular for several more years. They scanned the map for a proper culture to exploit and, not finding one, became discouraged until seeing a large Coke sign featuring Santa Claus. Immediately they realized they had overlooked the North Pole because it is made of ice and therefore didn't exist on their world map.

Immediately rushing out to a library, they gathered all the information they could find on Eskimos. What they found was a government-issued book on Eskimo sanitation, a book of Eskimo legends, and one scratchy record of someone hitting a drum and chanting. Not exactly the rich cultural vein they had hoped to mine.

But it was enough, for it set the Eyeballs spinning off into their own imaginary world of six-month nights, marimbas made of frozen fish, and Eskimo sex lives. For almost four years the ideas tumbled around. Sometimes they would feel elated at some new breakthrough, but usually they moaned that the album would not only make dreary listening, but be pretentious beyond belief.

But when it was finally released ESKIMO was a hit, both in sales and in reviews. Andy Gill of New Music Express said, "I'm not sure quite how to convey the magnitude of The Residents' achievement with Eskimo. What I am sure of is that it's without doubt one of the most important albums ever made, if not the most important, and that its implications are of such an unprecedentedly revolutionary nature that the weak-minded polemical posturing of purportedly 'political' bands are positively bourgeois by comparison."

He says this because the album tells the story, without relying upon words, of the assimilation of a ritualistic society into consumer culture. This story unfolds as Eskimo fables, a lived experience, set to the grinding of sound effects and music. It is a mind movie rich with detail. ESKIMO is, quite literally, a unique experience.