Andrew Hook - O for Obscurity, Or, The Story of N (book) [Psychofon Records/Eyeball Museum - 2020]Over the years there has been more than a handful of books about, or connected to San Francisco based avant pop/ creative musical project The Residents- but I must say O for Obscurity, Or, The Story of N is possible the one of the more curious/ bizarre. The one hundred & thirty-page paperback focuses in on N. Senada, a highly secretive/ rarely seen Bavarian musician who is said to have both influenced The Residents concepts & sound. The book purports to be drawn from encrypted diaries Senadaís which were discovered in The Residents archives- with the whole thing been written up into a biography form by British writer Andrew Hook.
The book appears as a joint venture between Psychofon Records, whom have released more than a few Residents related/connected release, and Eyeball Museum in Bremerhaven- where of course you can see all manner of Residents related fare- be it stage costumes, rare items, or merchandising etc. The one hundred & thirty-page book is A5 size, and itís perfectly bound. It takes a blend of mainly text with a few pictures at the start of chapters, and these are mainly of the encrypted diary pages that Hook has supposable solved to write the book.
The book opens with a few page introduction from The Residents management/ handlers the Cryptic Corp. Here we get a rundown of why/how N. Senada is important to the project, how The Residents came across the dairy, and how Hook became involved/ his solving of diaries codes.
The book drops down at certain key points in Nís life- moving from his birth, & moments in his strange childhood. Going onto the early playing of his key instruments the Saxophone, and the writing of his Magnus opus around 1936 Pollex Christi. The Residents donít appear in the story until around the sixty-page mark- when N meets Snakefinger- The Resident guitarist -in a Bavarian forest while recording bird songs. From here we move onto Nís trip to the USA to meet The Delta Nudes(which featured key members of The Residents), and when N played on stage with the project. After this, we stop off at a few other points, before Nís final days are spent in a hotel
Hook writes up the book with an enjoyable blend of quirky observation, cryptic asides, Resident/ experimental music references, and the general strange mystery of N himself. The whole thing managers to flow well enough through-out, with a good balance between historic detail & how they relate to the Res, and the general unusualness of N's secretive life. Of course, youíll have to be a Residents fan to enjoy the book most, and the more you know about the projects myths/ history the better.
The book is now in its second pressing with copies still presently available from here. So Iíd say if youíre a long term fan of The Residents, this is most certainly something youíll be needing to check out.Roger Batty