The World of Arthur Russell Posted by 03/10/08 in blog on
Rough Trade will soon be releasing a collection of previously unreleased folk, pop and country songs from Arthur Russell’s vast archive. Compiled from over eight hours of material and three years in the making, the album includes some of Arthur’s earliest compositions from the very early ’70’s through his very last recordings done at home in 1991. The release coincides with the arrival of the brilliant documentary, ‘Wild Combination: A portrait of Arthur Russell’.
For the un-initiated and anyone interested in finding out a bit more about Arthur we’ve prepared this little crash course. His journey began in 1972 in Northern California where he studied Indian classical composition with one of the masters, Akbar Khan. By 1975 he had moved to New York and began to work with several musicians and poets that would guide his work through the seventies: Allen Ginsberg, Christian Wolff, Jackson Maclow,Rhys Chatham, Philip Glass, Elodie Lauten, and Ernie Brooks.
By the end of the decade Arthur had crafted an impressive collection of instrumental and orchestral compositions and under the alias of Dinosaur L had begun to turn his attention to dance production with his first release being the epic ‘Kiss Me Again’.
His contribution to dance music during this period was formidable but only quietly acknowledged in his lifetime, perhaps due to his innovative approach that yielded sounds that were way ahead of what people were used to hearing at the time. Never the less they have since become integral parts of the development of modern house and club music and some of his biggest tunes such as 1980’s ‘Is It All Over My Face?’ and 1982’s ‘Go Bang!’ (Both released under the alias of Loose Joints) are still regularly played today and his entire body of dance production has been much sampled.
During the mid eighties Arthur began to give many live performances accompanied by only a cello and a number of effects pedals. From here he began to develop a sound that incorporated many of his previous ideas on pop, dance and classical music, which can be heard on the 1986 release ‘World of Echo’. It is a deeply meditative and seductive work of awe-inspiring beauty, grace and passion. Arthur commented that his aim was to achieve what he calls ‘the most vivid rhythmic reality’, with just cello, voice, and echoes.
Unfortunatley, during Arthur’s life time this was his only major album release. However his legacy consists of a vast collection of incredible diverse and distinctive songs that have been slowly been released ever since:
Last year, Rough Trade released a four track tribute to Arthur featuring covers by Jens Lekman, Vera November,Taken by Trees, and Joel Gibb from the Hidden Cameras performing one of Arthur’s best, ‘A Little Lost’.