Arthur Russell - Another Thought
A genius polymath who was almost entirely forgotten following his tragic, untimely passing at the age of 40 in 1992, over the last two decades the work and legacy of Arthur Russell has travelled like an ascendant start in cultural consciousness, revealing one of the most important and singularly unique artists at work during the second half of the 20th Century. While incredibly prolific, relatively little of the cellist and vocalist’s work reached the public ear during his lifetime, a reality that his partner, Tom Lee, has devoted his life to changing, beginning with the instigation of Another Thought, the first posthumous release dedicated to Russell’s work, originally issued in 1993 on CD by Philip Glass and Michael Riesman’s label Point Music. Alongside albums like World of Echo and Calling Out of Context, it stands as one of the most important documents of the artist’s visionary, signature sound. Now, after years out of print, Be With Records has delivered a stunning double LP, gatefold reissue - restoring its original cover - of Another Thought. Easily among the most exciting and important reissues of the year, it’s an absolute must for any fan of Russell, post-minimalism, or the 1970s and '80s New York avant-garde.
Born and raised in a small town in Iowa, Arthur Russell spent the end of the 1960s and early '70s in San Francisco, where he studied composition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Indian classical music at the Ali Akbar College of Music. In 1973, he relocated to NY in order to further his studies in electronic music at The Manhattan School of Music, quickly becoming a fixture within the downtown experimental music scene. This presence became all that much more noted the following year, when his close friendship with Rhys Chatham led to his being appointed as the new music director of the legendary performance space, The Kitchen, where he made waves booking everyone from Henry Flynt, Eliane Radigue, Laurie Spiegel, and La Monte Young, to the rock bands like The Modern Lovers.
It was Russell’s diversity of tastes that arguably most set him apart from his peers, not only as an influential curator, but also as an artist. He saw the radical potential of all forms, as he played in rock and roll bands, creating disco hits under monikers like Dinosaur L and Loose Joints, minimalist compositions that would emerge under the titles Instrumentals, and eventually a body of solo work for cello and voice for which he would ultimately, decades later, become most famed. It is this striking conjunction of sounds that sculpts the being of Another Thought.
As it was at the time of its original release in 1993, Another Thought remains a labor of love; an attempt by Tom Lee and his friend, Mikel Rouse, to create a definitive collection of Russell’s solo music following his death the year before. Culled from around 800 tapes of music created between 1982 and 1990, including sessions with regular collaborators Peter Zummo, Steven Hall, Mustafa Ahmed, Elodie Lauten, Julius Eastman, Jennifer Warnes and Joyce Bowden, it can be regarded as a surrogate for the album that Russell had been creating for Rough Trade during his last years, which never came to be.
While Another Thought traverses a diverse range of material across its four sides, the album’s central core orbits around Russell’s experimental pop compositions for voice and cello, featuring the first appearance of now legendary songs like This Is How We Walk On the Moon, Another Thought, Home Away From Home, Hollow Tree, See Through Love, Keeping Up, and Losing My Taste for the Night Life. Haunting, deeply emotive, and creatively radical as the next, each song remains unlike anything before or since, serving as a potent reminder of what an astoundingly singular artist Russell was. This is furthered by the presence of Just a Blip and Me for Real, two incredible tracks that encounter him setting aside his cello, accompanying his voice with drum machines, as well a handful of his visionary disco-not-disco tracks, culminating as a tour-de-force survey of Russell's remarkably diverse vision.
Absolutely incredible from start to finish, Be With Records lovingly remastered reissue of Arthur Russell’s Another Thought remains a treasure trove of revelations, nearly 30 years after it first appeared. Issued as a double LP, as well on CD, complete with Tom Lee’s original liner notes and Arthur’s lyrics, if there was a must have to drop this year, this might just be it!