ARTHUR RUSSELL: SPRINGFIELD (2006)
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.