Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Arthur Russell has completely owned my ears for the last fortnight. I picked up Love Is Overtaking Me from Rough Trade and have been swept along by the incessant groove ever since. It's a record that constantly reveals new gems to the listener, your favourite song will never holds its initial position. Currently jostling for my affections are Habit of You, Janine, Your Motion Says and I Couldn't Say It To Your Face.
For those of you unfamiliar with Russell, the man was a pioneer. No other way to put it. Famed for his contributions to disco (a future post for sure), this release on Audika / Rough Trade was compiled by Russell's partner, Tom Lee, from the various tapes he left behind after passing away in 1992. The 21-track remastered album is absolutely essential if you're a fan of Erlend Oye or Dirty Projectors to name a few whose style owes a debt, consciously or otherwise, to Russell. It's folk-pop kids.
Habit of You is a gloriously lo-fi pop masterpiece, centered around the sheer, giddy enthusiasm of falling in love juxtaposed with childhood nostalgia. Opening the door to that girl / boy is compared to opening the box and finding your orange birthday cake, the object of attachment going from lover to mother. What makes this song great is how the vocal melodies are a perfect fit for the feelings behind them. Feelings that are just so personal. The effect is completely disorientating and magical and this level of detail has you by the balls before the chorus has really unfurled itself. Keyboards, guitars and all matter of tinkling dance together around backing vocals and portamento that just makes me want to throw myself into a ball pool, building up to layered refrain.
Arthur Russell - Habit of You
Your Motion Says deserves a shout for the lyrical gradation describing parts of the body in terms of their gestures / motions (eyes/glances, mouth/kisses, hand/handshake) before the introspective culmination - I'm just another guy. Janine runs along in a similar vein to Habit, embodying a similar warmth but with more melancholic tones with skewed electronics behind. I Couldn't Say It Your Face has the perfect melody for the words behind it. Timeless. If you want those, buy them.
Some people say that Arthur Russell never finished anything. That these songs are unfinished. It's fair to say that he was such a perfectionist, his unfinished work still sounds unbelievably fresh decades after. In terms of length, the songs never go too far, which is a great quality to have when we're talking about pop music.