Barry "Schwump" Schwam - The Frog Opera [Psychofon Records - 2020]The Frog Opera is a prime slice of sonic quirkiness- with the single just shy of forty-minute track moving between warbling theatrical organ jaunt-ness & unhinged cartoon vocals, camp & soaring female operatics, jolly kids tunes slowly going wrong, weird vocoder jiving outs, loads of frog sounds and much more. This recent CD sees the return of Barry "Schwump" Schwam – a Musician/ DJ who was one of the early supporters/ collaborators with The Residents, and boy this is an oddly wonderful ride of an album.
The CD album is presented in a decidedly colorful A5 folder- on it’s outside we get blue & green frog handprints & red curtains. In the fold-out we get a cartoon illustration of a frog singing into a microphone with a vibrate cartoon jungle backdrop- there’s also a double-sided & hand-numbered inlay, which once again follows a similar design as the rest of the packaging. The release is Ltd to just 150 copies- so it’s certainly impressive the lengths the label has gone to make this look special & different, as are the sonics inside too.
The track is, as you expect, with a nearing forty-minute runtime is fairly episodic- yet it’s well arranged for both weird wonderment & surprise. The whole thing starts off with a deep voice male narration telling the tale of a prince that got turned into a frog over rising & brooding retro synth scaping- as we on from blends of sing-song warbling male vocals, jaunting organ, and a selection of frog/ natural sounds. Though to wailing & camp back & forths between operatic female singer & the male voices, onto wonky seesaw harmonica & syrupy dark yodling male vocals over children songs like melodies. Through to electro stretched blends of simmering & swiping female discordant vocals, and creepy male spoken word storytelling- on to bizarre & buoyant twists on the blues & cod reggae groove. The whole thing feels like an acid-soaked children's story condensed in forty minutes- the fed out in a very heady & deranged manner as it switches between playful/ fun & sinister/unease.
Been a long term Residents fan I was, of course, aware of the Barry "Schwump" Schwam name, but I wasn’t expecting such a polished gem of sonic odd-ness & bizarre showy-ness that is The Frog Opera- of course, a must for Residents fans, but equally, anyone who enjoys theatrical sonic oddness or bizarre/ unhinged easy listening. To snap up a copy frog-like before the all float away head here .