The World of Arthur Russell

The World of Arthur Russell is the most gorgeous music I have heard in ages. Russell (1951-1992) was an 80s disco producer with an avant-garde/classical music background. (See Sasha Freire-Jones’ article in The New Yorker for background). All Russell’s songs have a driving disco beat, a rhythm that’s less straightforward than it might seem at first, but that makes them instantly accessible and infectious. At the same time, there’s always something about them that’s deeply weird: a bit of unexpected instrumentation, a vocal that just seems somehow off, an out-of-pace shift of tonality…
Russell’s music is too quirky and strange to be called simply “charming”; but too quicksilver to be taken ponderously. It seems just the right thing to be listening to right now, on one of Seattle’s (rare) sunny days; there’s always a tinge of melancholy, but one that only seems to enrich the music’s overall cheerfulness (cheerfulness in the Nietzschean sense, gai savoir).

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