You have to look pretty hard to find Arthur Russell, a premature death in relative obscurity and only a single album released in his lifetime means he remains fairly elusive. Yet for a character of such ‘elusivity’ he has had one hell of an impact. A recent(ish) documentary, biographies and several posthumously released albums show the peaks and troughs of interest in Russell.
More importantly, it has been the cult-like following and repeated resurgences of Loose Joints’ (of which Russell was a founder) infectious disco oddity ‘Is It All Over My Face?' that has been the cornerstone of his influence. An influence more recently reinforced by Midland closing an 8-hour set at Panorama Bar with Russell’s ‘That’s Us/ Wild Combination’, Ben UFO choosing ‘In the Light of the Miracle’ to finish Meredith Festival, a track also played by Antal in his Dekmantel Boiler Room, as well as Motor City Drum Ensemble championing Loose Joints records in his Boiler Rooms and DJ-Kicks.
It seems Russell is the man that some of the most eclectic and interesting current DJ/Producers turn to at the key moments. Certainly, his haunting vocals are the perfect end to the emotional journey of an extended set, while his experimental use of rhythm, beats and BPM mean many of his productions are at home in a mix at times when most disco tracks wouldn’t. Ultimately Russell was a pioneer, he championed the cello progressively and successfully ignored most of the rules of disco, and music production as a whole. Indeed, it’s this attitude to music that makes him so important and as Russell’s approach is shared by popular, forward thinking artists like Midland, Ben UFO, Antal and MCDE the connections of influence are easily made.
‘Calling Out Of Context’ serves as a good introduction, released in 2004 but recorded between 1973 and 1992 it is perhaps the easiest listening of his back catalogue. And if nothing else, the compilation is home to the un-unlikeable ‘That’s Us/Wild Combination’- timeless and hopeful, the track is the perfect optimistic close to otherwise dark looking late nights and early mornings.
Words by Hugo B