The Residents - The Ghost Of Hope

by Mark Steele Rating:8 Release Date:2017-03-24

Having only seen abstract videos, many years ago, of the quirky anomaly that is those giant eyeball head bearers - The Residents, the opportunity was taken to look at their latest project 'The Ghost Of Hope' A somewhat edutaining presentation on steam train tragedies from the period during the late 19th to early 20th century. The 7-track album infuses various relevant sound effects, plus word for word press accounts, over the necessary music designed - co-produced by Eric Drew Feldman (Captain Beefheart, The Polyphonic Spree, PJ Harvey) to make this artistic statement that more poignant.

The Opening account 'Horrors Of The Night' starts with crickets underneath generic steam train whooshing and a dramatic synth loop. This moves into the narration section - which features throughout the album - over an edgy synth-pop backdrop. The inclusion of read-out eyewitness accounts seems to solidify the convincing travesty experienced by the people involved.

Odd interval harmonies on 'The Crash At Crush'  lead us into a call and response waltz vibe. It has plenty of horror movie suspense as the main vocalist gives the song a sea-shanty whimsical nature. Although the string notes come across all unhappy, there is a part on here that has a rhythm made by wooden objects.

Free floating synth layers swirl in-out of the available space found on 'Death Harvest', changing course when the trains begin revving up. The vocals sound quite mantric, cold and are made further edgy by adding towards the end, rather cold motorik drums, and bass. A chilling soundtrack to what ultimately is a quite sad 4th of July family outing. An old school urban cool on a jazz tip surfaces on 'Shroud Of Flames', using instrumentation and other layered samples similar to early 90's political rap such as The Undisposable Heroes Of HipHoprisy.

Ascending synth choral wave, chirpy organ music and far eastern zither chords 'The Great CircusTrain Wreck Of 1918', turn this into what could have been a lost Stephen King film soundtrack feature. In the vein of IT or other killer clowns movies. Elephant trumpets, bird tweets, mechanical rhythmic and melodic patterns create the nature against machine theme for the Malaysian brave pachyderm tragedy 'Train Vs Elephant'. The voice phrases and anxious organ expressions, conjure up a sense of calamity and TV thriller dramatics.

The final track has a real catchy set of harmonic hooks and key vocal phrases, making 'Killed At A Crossing' a further disturbing account and a real dirge that may stick in your head for a while.

After listening to The Ghost Of Hope, it reminded this writer of the dramatic impact upon first time hearing both the socio-conscious compositions of Paul Hardcastle's '19' and 'Just For Money' synth-funk compositions and then experiencing Public Enemy's Fear Of A Black Planet album. The Residents continue to surprise and deliver their unique worldview within their releases and seem apt candidates to tackle more surreal stories rearing their heads in these times.

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