Ten Little Piggies is a unique compilation in that it collects music from projects that have yet to be released. An easier way to look at it is as a sampler of works in progress. Even that is impressive, and again confirms my long held belief that The Residents always have several projects in flight at any given moment. Presumably they could have made such a release at any time. So why now?
It could simply be a straightforward contractual obligation. A new label (in this case, MVD) would like a compilation to sell, so one is put together. But this one has the added selling point of having all new material, which makes it more likely to be purchased by existing fans. The Residents may well be in a position where existing fans outnumber potential fans, so it makes financial sense to market specifically to them, the birds in the hand. Or it could be this is the first time they’ve had so many projects nearing completion at once, providing them the rare opportunity to confidently announce them in advance (it is well known they do not like revealing details of a project before it is finalized, due to their propensity towards tinkering and change).
Regardless of the genesis, there is still corporate bureaucracy at play here, with a couple of these future projects having already been released (Hades came out as a digital download last month, and The Ughs coincides with this release). Obviously Ten Little Piggies was intended to be made available a few months ago, but got caught up in whatever machinations prevent any project from completing on time.
That delay would have to be known to them, so again we ask: what is the benefit of this (mostly) forward-looking compilation? I think they are rebranding, or at least putting new emphasis on their existing brand. Though come to think of it, a redoubled effort would be littered with the eyeball head image, so they must be conjuring up something different. A new attempt to escape the all-being eye. I’m definitely seeing a desire to do more soundtrack work. Not only are they releasing commissioned scores, but also instrumental versions of their most recent albums. They are reminding the entertainment world at large that they are available for such contract work, and this is a new demo reel that better reflects their current state. “Listen to how much better we are these days,” they are saying. “We’re not just that weird eyeball band; we can do serious commercial art as well. You know my name, look up the number.”
Ordinarily a new Residents project causes me to reevaluate what I know about them, recontextualizing their past. Ten Little Piggies wants me to look into their future, but even now they resist my attempt to do so. Of the ten projects previewed, eight are of older, unreleased material. That’s still new as far as the public is concerned, but it leaves us with very little in the way of determining where they are headed. Duck Stab Re-Imagined is referred to in the past tense, so it’s probably a shelved idea, only included here because something from it will be released (à la I Murdered Mommy), but we’ll never see the originally intended product.
Talking Light is the only project left that can be considered in progress at this time, and it sounds like it has the potential to carry on for a long while. As described, it is a methodology rather than a narrative concept, so it’s more akin to “use computers for recording” than “write songs about animals.” A narrative concept will get fed into it, no doubt, but the core methodology will allow them to work more efficiently on that concept as well as others to follow. Every few years there’s a sort of renaissance within The Residents, and I think we are seeing another one happen right now. I’m excited to listen to the Light, and see what it says.