Musician Arthur Russell was a mainstay of the New York City downtown avant-garde who in the 1970s and 1980s experimented with underground disco, post-punk pop, no-wave, folk, minimalist classical and almost every genre that flowed through that hugely influential scene. A collaborator with the likes of Philip Glass and David Byrne who also released numerous singles and solo albums, Russell has only in recent years gained recognition for his incredible talent and commitment to trans-genre experimentation. Yesterday, to mark the 20th anniversary of Russell death, Niall O'Conghaile at Dangerous Minds posted a concise survey of Russell's work. That post spurred my pal Pat Kelly to seek out "First Thought Best Thought," a collection of Russell's earliest instrumental compositions dating back to 1972. This is stunning music and I'm thrilled that Audika Records is making it available, some of it for the very first time. From the album description of "Instrumentals," excerpted above:
Initially intended to be performed in one 48-hour cycle, “Instrumentals” was in fact only performed briefly in excerpts as a work in progress. The legendary performances captured live in New York at The Kitchen and Franklin St. Arts Center include the cream of that eras downtown new music scene including Ernie Brooks, Rhys Chatham, Jon Gibson, Peter Gordon, Garrett List, Andy Paley, Dave Van Tiegham, and Peter Zummo. Included here is the previously unreleased “Instrumentals” Vol. 1 along with “Instrumentals” Vol. 2 that has been out of print for over twenty years. Originally released in 1984, sections of “Instrumentals” Vol. 2 were incorrectly mastered at half speed, and have been corrected for this compilation.
Arthur Russell: "First Thought Best Thought" (Audika Records)
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.