Calling Out of Context
||"The Platform on the Ocean"
||"Arm Around You"
If the Soul Jazz collection of recordings by Arthur Russell was
the lost treasure, this new collection, "Calling Out of Context"
is certainly the jewel in the crown. As we know, Russell was the
mysterious cellist who would later become the avant-disco maestro.
Where Soul Jazz's "World of
" compilation mainly
focused on the Russell that had discovered New York nightlife,
"Calling Out of Context" compiles two albums: one completed
in 1984, the other eventually abandoned, dating between 1986 and
It's upbeat but definitely not disco in the traditional sense.
This is his more personal, mysterious, intimate, natural, joyful,
and, yes, queer side. Ranging from solo settings -- with Russell
sweetly singing, as well as playing guitar, cello, keyboards,
and drum machines -- to duos and trios with Peter Zummo on trombone
and synthesizer, and Mustafa Ahmed on drums, Djembe, conga, and
programming, this set illustrates Russell's connection to more
recognized names such as Eno, Bowie, Byrne, Gabriel, Watt, Gore,
Wobble, Wyatt, Cale, Collins, and even Prince (accessible but
without the obvious pop pretension).
Constructed with a more delicate touch, strong sense of rhythm,
honest voice, thoughtful, personal, and natural words than most
"white boy soul" singers or post-punk poseurs, but with
more outsider overtones, it shines with an odd beauty none of
the above mentioned could tap into. He uses the mechanical drum
rhythms that were to become the foundation of modern R&B and
hip-hop with a soulful and spirited ear. It sounds like the streets
of NYC during the mid-'80s.
This is a document of what love, devotion, drive, and imagination
can produce. Russell, an outsider, on the fringe within the '80s
New York avant-garde scene, wanted to be accepted by the crowd
he danced with regularly. He walked along the same streets as
Liquid Liquid, ESG, and Talking Heads, possessing the same forward-thinking
fusion of urban minimal funk.
The occasional lo-fi quality often makes it feel like an audio
diary of sorts. Very few have ever heard these recordings; the
very reason they exist is because of Russell's faith in what he
was doing, hearing the rhythms, the waves of echo, the subtly
shifting percussion lines, and the swaying drum patterns. Like
Sun Ra, Coltrane, Fela, or Cash, his output is the result of a
life dedicated to music, absorbing it, creating without restraint,
and with a sense of leaving behind something beautiful. This is
yet another shining example of a great creative spirit that didn't
get to see his work accepted and appreciated.
"Calling Out of Context" is gathered from thousands
of tapes which Russell kept his various mixes on -- works in progress
that he would wander the city listening to. Do yourself a favor,
don't buy that new electro/post-punk haircut band, or at very
least buy this too. Try the real thing. Thanks to Steve Knutson
for giving this music a new life. By all means, recommended. [DG]
(Album will not be available in the store until Thursday, February