THE RESIDENTS oz. ALI OBSTAJATA SUPER-FOLK GLASBA IN FILM? /

THE RESIDENTS or IS THERE A SUPER-FOLK MUSIC AND FILM?
slovensko

Brez pretiravanja lahko rečemo, da so The Residents eden najzanimivejših fenomenov (širokega in raznolikega) sveta popularne glasbe. Tekom let so mnogi poznavalci začeli kritizirati oz. se upirati popularni glasbi in sorodni kulturi, toda The Residents so bili eni prvih, ki so si ustvarili sloves z zavračanjem igranja v skladu s pravili "popularnega". Že desetletja se izogibajo razkrivanju svojih osebnih življenj in svoje identitete, med drugim se v javnosti pojavljajo skriti za grotesknimi maskami (od tega je oblačenje v velikanska očesa samo najbolj prepoznavno in je postalo že nekakšna blagovna znamka). Svojo umetnost gradijo na subtilnem posmehovanju popularni glasbi in njeni smešni paradi lestvic in hitov ter vsej histeriji, ki jo sprožajo množični mediji.

V svoji najzgodnejši inkarnaciji so bili The Residents popolnoma drugačni od česarkoli na sceni. S svojimi originalnimi glasbenimi eksperimenti in posnetki so začeli v poznih 60ih/zgodnjih 70ih, ko je popularna glasba še vedno veljala za uporniško in napredno. Mnogo let je bilo potrebno, da je ta nova vrsta uporniških umetnikov dosegla glasbene potrošnike.

Namesto, da bi sledili potem, ki so jih začrtali drugi glasbeniki, so se The Residents odločili ustvariti svojo vrsto popularne glasbe, svoj lasten svet. To je bilo junaško dejanje, ki so ga na začetku - nič nenavadnega - cenili le poznavalci. Obskurne albume, ki so izšli med letoma 1973 in 1979 (Meet the Residents, Not Available, The Third Reich'n'Roll, Fingerprince, Duck Stab/Buster and Glen, Eskimo), je cenil samo zelo ozek krog privržencev. Danes pa The Residents veljajo (oziroma bi morali veljati) za klasike. Glasba na teh zgodnjih posnetkih je zvenela kot glasba iz klasičnih risank kombinirana s hrupom, ki je veljal za "futurističnega" ne glede na to, ali je prihajal iz sintesajzerjev ali glasbil za otroke. Ne gre tudi mimo elementa dramatičnega performansa, ki je postal očiten, ko so The Residents začeli koncertirati. Njihova pojavljanja v živo so spominjala bolj na gledališke predstave kot na rock koncerte.

Leta 1980 so The Residents izdali Commercial Album, ki je verjetno zadnja od "klasičnih" izdaj te skupine. Na njem je 40 enominutnih komadov z glasbenimi gosti od avantgardnih glasbenih legend, kot sta Chris Cutler in Fred Firth, do nekaterih glasbenikov iz nastajajoče scene novega vala, kot sta Andy Partridge in Lene Lovich. Album se na svoj nenavaden in črnohumoren način poigrava z idejo "komercializacije" in od takrat naprej so The Residents začeli resno delati v smeri širjenja občinstva svoje glasbe. V istem obdobju so nastali kratki video filmi za Commercial Album. Pritegnili so pozornost in so bili celo predvajani na zgodnjih MTV programih, ki jim je leta 1982 še primanjkovalo kvalitetnih rock video spotov in so sprejemali celo čudne eksperimentalne zadeve.

Od takrat so The Residents izdali gore glasbenega materiala. Še vedno so aktivni in njihovi nastopi v živo so intenzivni in nedvomno na najvišjem produkcijskem nivoju. Verjetno ne bodo nikoli zanimivi za množični trg (hvala bogu!), toda uživajo zasluženo spoštovanje. Dejstvo, da njihove identitete ostajajo skrivnost, je odraz občudovanja privržencev. Verjetno obstaja na tisoče ljudi, ki so jih imeli priložnost spoznati ali z njimi celo sodelovati brez mask, vendar nihče od njih ni želel razbliniti njihove skrivnosti in razkriti njihovih identitet ali fotografij medijem oziroma javnosti. Sam lahko potrdim, da ima srečanje z The Residents res poseben skrivnosten priokus, ki bi ga bilo škoda pokvariti.

Drug pomemben vidik skupine je vizualna produkcija - izjemen dizajn ovitkov, njihovi filmi in promocijski material. Pri tem so sodelovali s številnimi striparji in vizualnimi umetniki na ameriški alternativni sceni. V njegovem Brooklynskem ateljeju sem imel priložnost spoznati Gary Panterja, enega najvidnejših underground striparjev, ki je leta sodeloval z The Residents. "Nekaj let so starejši od mene," mi je povedal. "Ponavadi je eden od njih napisal večino besedil, drugi pa večino glasbe, sodelujejo pa še z veliko drugimi ljudmi. So kot nekakšni SUPER-FOLK umetniki, to je moje mnenje, s koreninami v glasbi Louisiane in neke vrste teatralnosti."

"Folk" (superfolk!) element, na katerega je opozoril Gary Panter, je posledica njihove preprostosti in skromnosti. Njihov čar izhaja iz suhega humorja namesto iz elitističnega nonsensa. Poleg tega prihajajo iz Shreveporta v Louisiani, kar jih že samo po sebi izključuje iz elitističnih krogov (San Franisca, kjer zdaj živijo).

Najnovejši izdelek The Residents je samo nov dokaz njihove plodnosti in inkluzivnosti, navkljub njihovemu navidezno ekskluzivnemu konceptu. Commercial Album DVD, ki je izšel jeseni 2004, poleg starih in novih video spotov, ki so jih ustvarili The Residents, vsebuje tudi dela mladih in svežih vizualnih umetnikov iz celega sveta, ki so jih povabili, da ustvarijo nove filme na enominutne komade klasičnega Commercial Albuma.

Rezultati so presenetljivo sveži in domiselni tudi po mojih standardih, čeprav sem zarjavel "star" fan The Residents, ki je težko sprejemal vse nove smeri skupine v zadnjih letih. Filmi na Commercial Album DVD-ju so dokaz njihove vitalnosti. Komadi iz leta 1980 ne zvenijo retro ali zastarelo. Pravzaprav se krasno skladajo z domišljijo mladih umetnikov, ki so skrivnostnosti The Residents vdahnili novo energijo ... Univerzalno všečno. Kot boste videli iz novih animacij in filmov, so lahko The Residents karkoli spominja na The Residents. Vsako velikansko oko s cilindrom vam lahko v glavi zavrti fantazmagoričen film, toliko bolje, če je tudi črno humoren.

V počastitev 25. obletnice izida albuma, založba Mute ponovno izdaja Commercial Album CD v posebni vezani knjigi z besedili in posnetki skupaj z izjemnim DVD-jem, ki projekt dopolnjuje z neverjetno zbirko 56 enominutnih filmov na podlagi 40 originalnih komadov iz albuma. Skupina je za ta projekt izbrala 42 odličnih vizualnih umetnikov, ki uporabljajo vse od animacije, igranega filma, lutk, risanja, fotografije in kiparstva. Poleg tega ima DVD inovativen uporabniški vmesnik, ki gledalcu v postopku gledanja filmov omogoča raziskovanje labirinta.

english

It is no exaggeration to say that The Residents are one of the most interesting phenomena in the (wide and diverse) world of popular music. Over the years many insiders seem to have been criticizing and rebelling against aspects of popular music and related culture. But The Residents were among the first to build their reputation by refusing to play according to the rules of what was "popular". They avoided talking about their personal backgrounds and haven't revealed their identities for decades while appearing in public hidden behind grotesque masks (of which dressing as giant eyeballs is only the most recognizable, and has become a sort of trade mark). Over the years they built their art based on having a good laugh at popular music and its silly parade of charts and hits and all the mass media-induced hysteria.

The Residents in their earliest incarnation were different from anything else on the scene. They started their original music experiments and recordings in the late 60s/early 70s, at a time when popular music was still considered rebellious and progressive by default. It would take years for the new breed of rebellious artists to come within the scope of music consumers.

Instead of following paths paved by the other artists, The Residents decided to create their own kind of popular music, their own universe. This was a heroic act, and - as usual - at first only enthusiasts recognized it. The albums that came out from 1973 to 1979 (Meet the Residents, Not Available, The Third Reich'n'Roll, Fingerprince, Duck Stab/Buster and Glen, Eskimo) were obscurities appreciated by a very limited circle of followers. But today The Residents are (or should be) considered classics. The music on these early records sounded like soundtracks from vintage cartoons combined with noise that was considered "futuristic" whether it was performed on synthesizers or "acoustic" toy instruments. The additional touch of dramatic performance must also be mentioned, which would become more obvious when The Residents started to play live. Most of their live shows resembled theatrical performances more then rock concerts.

In the year 1980, The Residents released their Commercial Album, which was probably the last of the "classic" releases of the band. It contained as many as 40 one-minute songs, plus guest appearances not only by avant-garde music heroes such as Chris Cutler and Fred Frith, but also by some of the musicians from the emerging new wave scene such as Andy Partridge and Lene Lovich. The album toyed with the idea of "commercialization" in its weird and dark-humored way, and from that time on the band started to work seriously on bringing their music to a wider audience. This coincided with the production of the Commercial Album short video films. These attracted attention and were shown on the earliest MTV programs, which, back in 1982, still lacked quality rock video material and accepted even weird experimental stuff.

Since then, The Residents have produced piles of music material. They are still active, and their live appearances are very intense and by no doubt offer the highest-level production values. They will probably never appeal to the mass market (thank God Almighty!), but they at least get the respect that they deserve. The fact that The Residents' identities remain secret is also a reflection of the admiration shown by aficionados. There are probably thousands of people who have had a chance to meet or even collaborate with The Residents unmasked, and yet none have wanted to disrupt the mystery and reveal their true identity or photos to the media or general public. I can testify myself that the opportunity to meet The Residents without their disguises has that special flavor of mystery, which would be foolish to lose.

Another important aspect of the band is its visual production based on superb album cover designs, their films, and their promotional material. It comes as no surprise that they have collaborated with a number of cartoonists and visual artists active on the American alternative scene. In his Brooklyn studio, I had a chance to meet Gary Panter, one of the most prominent underground cartoonists, who collaborated with The Residents for years. "They are a couple of years older then me," said Gary. "One of them would typically write most of the lyrics, and another would do most of the music, and they have many people working with them. They are like SUPER-FOLK artists, that's how I think of them, with roots in Louisiana music and kind of theatrical.' The "folk" (superfolk!) element pointed to by Gary Panter obviously comes from the ability of the band to avoid "high-brow" attitudes. Their charm is based on dry humor rather then elitist nonsense. Not to mention their roots in Shreveport, Louisiana (where they lived before moving to San Francisco), which instantly defines them as outsiders in certain circles.

Actually, the most recent product of The Residents is further proof of their ability to be prolific and inclusive despite their seemingly exclusive concept. A Commercial Album DVD that came out in the fall of 2004 consists not only of old and new videos created by The Residents, but also material by young and fresh visual artists from all over the world. These artists were invited to create new films based on classic Commercial Album one-minute songs.

The results are surprisingly fresh and imaginative, even by the standards of the rusty "old" fans of The Residents such as I, who had difficulty accepting all of the new directions that band was taking. The films on the Commercial Album DVD are evidence of the vitality of The Residents. Their 1980 tracks do not sound retro or outdated. In fact, they match wonderfully with the imagination of the emerging artists who brought new energy to The Residents' mystique… Speaking of which, it should be considered universal in its appeal. As you can see from the new animations and films, anything that resembles The Residents could be The Residents. Any Eyeball wearing a top hat has potential to roll a phantasmagoric film inside your head, and if it's dark and humorous all the better.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release, Mute is releasing the Commercial Album on CD in a special perfect bound book with lyrics and screen shots, as well as a groundbreaking companion DVD, complementing and completing the project with an amazing collection of 56 one-minute films based on the original 40 songs from the album. The band has assembled an outstanding group of 42 visual artists for this project, working in forms ranging from animation, live action, puppetry, drawing, photography, and sculpture. Additionally, the DVD has an innovative game-like interface allowing the viewer to explore a maze in the process of viewing the videos.