The Residents - Refused [Klanggalerie - 2019]Santa Dog was the first official sonic statement from the avant pop collective The Residents. The project self-released the double 7-inch single in December of 1972, and the four-track affair highlighted the collectives career-long tendencies to shift between upbeat often memorable oddness, and more experimental/ quirky avant grade fare. Through-out the projects forty years existence the collective has returned to the "Santa Dog" track again & again- and this eighteen track CD collects these together in chronologically order…for uninitiated an eighteen track/seventy-eight minute compilation of different versions of the same track may sound mind-numbing & torturous in its repetition- but this been The Residents each take is different, at time drastically so as the collective try out various genres & instrumental/ vocal use on this most beloved of tracks.
Refused compilation original appeared in 1999 on Ralph Records- it featured fourteen tracks and had a numbered pressing of 1,333. This recent CD appeared in late 2019 on Klanggalerie- coming in a fold-out glossy gatefold, which takes in the original seven-inch artwork, and imagery relating to later releases. Sadly, and telling of the tracks popularity/ what the project did with the track, this is now all but sold out…through you might want to drop Klanggalerie a line to see if they have a few copies left for sale.
So the CD takes in eighteen tracks- with these running between just under two minutes, and over twelve- with the project really stretching-taking the original foundations of the tracks to wacky, wonderful, and bizarre places. So as you'd expect the comp starts off with the original take on the track which was titled “Fire” on the double seven inch- this first version of the track rolls in at the one minute & forty-five-second mark- and what we get is a blend throbbing & jive bass line, strutting guitar, snaking jazzy drums, & male back vocals- all topped with the singing Residents slightly wavering singsong vocals- it initial sounds fairly normal/ formal, but we get sudden odd twists like jarring & angular slay bells & a general feeling of sonic unwell ness- even though the tracks fairly upbeat & mockingly joyous.
As we move through the different takes of the track, these very much charts the changing/ shift sound identity of the project- we go from "Santa Dog 78"- which features that Duck Stab album like blend of high-pitched cartoon vocals, melted & woozy electronics, and wailing main vocals. A few tracks on, we come to "Santa Dog 88"- where we find a blend jaunting synth bass lines, tick-tack percussion, layered vocals, and synthetic Gamelan hits. "Santa Dog 92" is the longest take on the material sliding in a few seconds sly of the thirteen-minute mark- here we have robot-like cracked Res vocals, moody & often darkly stretched synth scaping, bubbing/ creepy sound textures, and a latter bright-to-bouncing vocoder lines. Further on with "Santa Dog 2006" we find tight stabbing lines of guitar ‘n’ cold snapping beats- wavering sometimes harmonic back vocals, and of course the ranting/ wailing voice of the singing Rez. Towards the end of the release, we find a purely Gamelan version of the track which again is very different.
Playing through Refused you are struck again and again by The Residents ability to alter, twist and pervert their own work in such original & creative manner. The idea of eighteen versions of the same material, in principle sounds like absolute lunacy- but like so many of the Resident’s seemingly mad ideas and strange/ quirky concepts- this wholly hearted works.Roger Batty