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Friday, December 2, 2011

Arthur Russell: Springfield


1) Springfield; 2) Springfield (DFA Remix); 3) Springfield (Detail); 4) See My Brother, He's Jumping Out (Let's Go Swimming #1); 5) Corn #3; 6) Hiding Your Present From You; 7) You Have Did The Right Thing When You Put That Skylight In.

I do not even know why this is available in the first place. The only «autonomous» track on this mini-album is 'Springfield' itself, a track recorded some time in the late Eighties, but not late enough to serve as a tribute to Matt Groening. It is not at all different from many other «synth-prog» grooves that we already know, and, in fact, I find it deadly boring. The gimmick consists of a rigidly scraped cello looped as one of the rhythm tracks. So what? There is neither melody nor atmosphere here.

The rest of the record seems to have been hastily assembled around this «masterpiece», but most of the tracks are actually better. In the nearly instrumental 'DFA Remix' of 'Springfield', the subtle brass overdubs are pushed higher in the mix, so that the track gets a slight atmospheric injection. 'See My Brother, He's Jumping Out' features a somewhat more complex style of percussion pro­gramming (still way too much Eighties for me to be enjoyable) and various small sonic effects, mostly in the form of synth bleeps and cello scratches, that help it get along. And 'Hiding Your Present From You' is, at long last, an actual song, allowing Russell's otherworldly optimism echo through the contradicting layers of ambient cloudy synths and distorted noise-rock guitar.

Still, the only track of any true interest on the album, I think, is the last one, which sounds as if it itself had no idea of where it was coming from or going to. Basically, it is a heavy cello freakout, not unlike something in the vein of Adrian Belew, but done with a bow rather than a pick, and with far more echo and wobble than Belew would ever allow himself — to conceal the lack of technique, perhaps, as experimental players often do — but the reality is such that this sound is cool. If you have a cello, do not try this at home, though. Might as well just start pouring acid on your floorboards.

Considering that the well of unissued treasures had by no means yet run dry, I seriously question the purposes of this release. It may only be of interest to seriously hardcore fans of Arthur Russell, and I seriously be­lieve that all of them dwell together in a two-bedroom apartment somewhere in the Village. Thumbs down, despite some occasionally pleasant quirkiness.


  1. It's becoming interesting from philosophical point of view - thumbs down to whom - that is what is the object to which you're applying the marks.
    Russel being dead for a while thumbs down for him are impossible.
    Thumbs down going to whoever assembled the tracks impossible, too, for it is impossible to know precisely who are they.
    So it seems yuo are giving thumbs to albums themselves.
    Then do we suppose one album is aware of other(s)? By what medium? Therefoe, by giving thumbs to albums themselves you consider each album in isolation and thus all your marks are meaningless for they can have no other marks in any proximity to be compared with

  2. "Then do we suppose one album is aware of other(s)?"

    Alex, lay off the DXM.

  3. The thumbs could be metaphorical. I suppose from one point of view if you have a thumb up you it can be quite pleasant. If you have a thumb down you it can make you sick.

  4. Why do the album need to be aware of others? Isn't it the other way around? We're aware of the albums and we use George's thumb as a guideline of some sort?