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The Residents

The Mark of the Mole

Review by Gary Hill
When this was released in 1981 it was to be part of an ambitious project, the Mole Trilogy. It was to be an epic tale of two colliding cultures told through a series of albums. This has a very artistic, but also incredibly strange sound. Yet, it works well.

It should be noted that I've reviewed this here as a retro review, but also as part of a new box set. I strongly recommend getting it that way as there are plenty of bonus things on the disc itself, and it's just one of six CDs in the set.



This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Voices of the Air
Dark, trippy and electronic, this is tastefully strange. There is a moodiness to it that is quite cool. There are some voices from the radio in the mix, appropriate to the title.
The Ultimate Disaster
There is an industrial, experimental, electronic vibe to this cut.  The thing is, this is almost nine minutes long. That much space gives them a lot of room to do different things, and they do. It doesn't stay in any one place too long, but rather makes its way through all kinds of differing weirdness. Oddly enough, a section around the seven-minute mark almost sounds like some of the more experimental stuff from the Beatles. There is some harmonica after that, too.
Migration
There is a building, rising kind of vibe built into this track. It feels like a continuation of the previous one in a lot of ways. Another extensive cut, this has a lot of changes and range. There are some parts that almost feel tribal, in a weird surreal way.
Another Land
Somehow this electronic piece seems more scenic in a way. That said, there are dark symphonic elements at play, too. As it approaches the minute-and-a-half mark a female spoken voice is heard, and the music climbs into some ominous science fiction territory. It works through several shifts and changes from there.
The New Machine
There is a real science fiction vibe to this, too. Parts of it call to mind some kind of processional, too. The cut works toward more industrial territory further down the road as it really gets a bit noisy. The new machine rises upward from there with a strange science fiction hopefulness. Trippy, fast paced, noisy weirdness takes over at the end and segues into the next piece.
Final Confrontation
Coming out of the last one, some voices come over the swirling fast paced arrangement. The cut resolves out into another arrangement that even has some hints of jazz in its weirdness. There are some Asian leanings at times, too. The cut builds out to more of a rocking arrangement from there. At nearly ten-minutes long, this is an extensive piece, and they make good use of that time, packing a lot into this thing. Around the half-way mark it seems to end, leaving just a background rumbling. It rises upward with strange keyboard textures from there. That transitions to more weirdness, and it then turns a bit spooky before a false ending happens. A new, playful section emerges from there. This evolves in strange ways at it works forward.
 
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