The Residents – Coochie Brake (2012)
The Residents are a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, pushed into a mystery, shrouded in a secret, wrapped up in an obfuscation, concealed in a… well, you get the point.
They are a visual arts and avant garde music troupe consisting of three or possibly four, or possibly even only two, no definitely four…
…or three eyeball-headed anonymous performers known only as Randy, Chuck and Bob; oh yeah, and Carlos. They have had a prodigious output in their four decades of activity, with over 45 albums to their name. For Coochie Brake, Randy was on tour as a solo act and Carlos had returned to the band from self-imposed exile in Mexico.
Anyway… the story goes that the young Residents used to go camping in a mysterious place called Coochie Brake, a swamp created when a meteorite landed in the Louisiana Bayou area. During the colonisation of the Americas, the Spanish would take all their looted gold and silver and store it at a fort hidden within the Brake, and in the surrounding caves.
One could quite easily imagine that instead of a meteorite, an alien spacecraft crash-landed in the Brake, and the teenage Residents discovered the craft and were imbued with some sort of otherworldly vision.
Coochie Brake, the album, is a mysterious and dark soundtrack that evokes the explorations of the Brake and the caves for gold (or perhaps ancient wisdom), with very low-key spoken and whispered vocals in Spanish. The whole album is dense like the swamp and is, rather fittingly I suppose, not immediately accessible; in the same way that the gold-filled caves had been blocked by the Spanish soldiers fleeing Napoleons annexing of Louisiana. There are expressions of ritualistic chanting and slow droning horns, steady rhythmic pulses that bring the feeling of deep, quiet exploration, as if trying not to wake some ancient evil hidden between the rocky outcrops, but then stumbling onto something one should not discover, being captured and eventually escaping… only to be trapped forever in the endless Bayou…
If I played you the more *ahem* “accessible” albums, The Bunny Boy (2008), Duck Stab (1978), The Commercial Album (1980), etc., you could be forgiven in thinking that they were not the same band. But, The Residents aren’t as easy as that to classify, and Coochie Brake fits nicely alongside Eskimo (1979) and perhaps The Ughs! (2009). It’s a little bit challenging but ultimately well worth it.
Favourite tracks: Gotta Believe, Rot of Ages, Runaway.
Spotify link: The Residents – Coochie Brake