Tuesday, January 6, 2009
tone bone kone
that sums up how i felt when i first stumbled upon arthur russell last year. i couldn't believe that 1. this guy is not a contemporary artist (infact he has been dead for almost 20 years) and
b. how the fuck have i never heard this before!
although russell (born charles arthur russell jr.) died at a fairly young age, he left behind quite an extensive body of work. he studied the cello from a very young age and kept with it all of his life. it's almost inconceivable to imagine how this man slipped under the radar when you look at all of the people that he collaborated with and the genres of music that spanned his career.
early on after moving from sf to nyc, arthur became the musical director of a place called the kitchen (which is a story unto itself that i need to find out more about). this was some sort of venue/gallery for primarily video art, plastic art and performance pieces. arthur introduced the idea of the "minimalism" that could be found in pop music by introducing acts such as the modern lovers and the talking heads. yeah. whatever, i don't really understand the minimalist point that he was trying to make, but that put him in some pretty good company early on for sure. come on, jonathan richman? david byrne? this was all between 74 and 75 for fucks sake! a.r. also formed a band called the flying hearts with all kinds of amazing musicians that lasted until 79 and beyond that i cannot find any trace of. if anybody has any recordings of them, hit me up!
so i could pretty much go on forever, but i am just going to glean over the highlights. here's a big one. arthur russell was super involved in disco and was a serious party dood. he has tons of disco singles and albums with various people. i haven't heard a lot of it, so i am not going to comment on it further than telling you that it is out there and it is plentiful. the stuff i have heard was pretty good, if you are into that sort of thing.
the other big one that i am skimming on is that, ready for this, this guy may be responsible for chicago house. i know it's hard to believe, but dood was in the right place at the right time with his digits on the big gay pulse of new york. his records were HUGE at the paradise garage, including the single "is it all over my face", which is thuh muthuh fuckin jam!!! at least it is if you like house music at all. check it out!
the last thing that i am going to mention very briefly is that he died of aids. i wouldn't even mention it, but it seems to directly correlate with the feeling of some of his most beautiful music. this is a beautiful quote that i found from the village voice upon his death. "His recent performances had been so infrequent due to illness, his songs were so personal, that it seems as though he simply vanished into his music."
his best album as far as i am concerned, the one that i cannot stop listening to, his opus if you will, is called world of echo. it is a mellow, reflective album and the pieces seem to run together without a beginning or an end. part avant-garde, part minimal with interestingly buttery electrified melancholy vocals drifting over beautiful melodies comprised of nothing but cello. if you buy one piece of music this year, you should make it this album, seriously.
that's all i have for now. i'm sick of typing. you can get a taste of the stuff i have been jabbering on about on myspace if you search arthur russell. i checked it out. there is a plethora of sites claiming to be his and they all offer something different. happy searching!