Album of the Week: Arthur Russell – World of Echo

What is it: A classic avant-disco record
Why is it so significant: It’s innovative while remaining accessible and has influenced countless careers.
Who says its so important: Magnus International, Øyvind Morken and Olanskii

Arthur Russell’s World of Echo is a record we’ve been eager to make our album of the week for some time, but even re-issues arrive infrequently and in small numbers with price tags that match their exclusivity, but Jæger had a good week, so we thought we’d spoil ourselves. It’s a record that you’ll hear being talked about in revered tones amongst many of our residents and in Oslo it’s certainly influenced a few careers – Magnus International’s Echo to Echo even pays tribute to it in its title. So why is it so significant. Arthur Russell is seminal figure in the development of Disco and electronic music, recording with the likes of Nicky Siano and Walter Gibbons in the late seventies, while at the same time walking amongst New York’s most avant garde talents in music. With a sound that managed to push the envelope of the music while being able to speak to a major audience, Russell’s music occupied that hallowed ground between pure innovative artistry, without alienating the average man on the street. Why it should be so popular is still unclear. A classically  trained cellist, Russell never succumbed to the easy thing, preferring dissonance over consonance and using awkward rhythms, but yet his music has an amazing allure to it. It has a lot to do with the inventiveness of his creativity and that this album, originally recorded in 1986, still sounds as far out as it would have done back then, stands testament to this talent.

Russell coaxes most of his sensual sonorities from his cello on this record, but you’d hardly know that without really listening intently. He manipulates them in the electronic realm alongside his discordant vocal and with that he managed to create an album that seems to speak directly to its listener, perhaps mostly due to his unique voice. On paper there would be nothing to this record that you can pinpoint as the defining aspect of its character, but the end result just bounds with enough charm and sincerity that even the most hardened musical critic would be hard-pressed to deny its presence and even magnificence. Sadly Mr. Russell is no longer with us and it was shortly after this record that he fell victim to that most devastating disease of the 70’s, AIDS and passed away, leaving us with this record as his last musical words. It may have taken us two months of waiting around for this record to finally arrive after we ordered it, but now we have it, and will take up a special place on our shelf.