Monday, April 19, 2010

Wild Sound

Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell (2008) - Wolf
I first heard Arthur Russell's music from some art school student's ipod. It sounded like 80s African pop music: beat heavy, fresh, accessible yet different. Then I asked her and she told me who it was. Russell died of AIDS in the early 90s, but left some very beautiful music behind. A Iowan farm boy with the voice of Nick Drake and the face of Denis Lavant, he got mixed up with the Beat crowd in San Fran and NY, became a staple at the Kitchen, NY's hub of avant-garde artists and musicians in the 70s. His weapon was cello. When everything around him was punk and disco, he produced music someone dubbed as 'Buddhist bubblegum pop'- part dance, part country, part avant. If he wasn't a perfectionist, obsessively changing his music all the time, he could've been as well-known as his contemporaries like Philip Glass and John Cage. Russell was always seeking and experimenting but it really showed in his voice and lyrics that, at heart, he was a gentle kid from the Plains.

Wolf does a great job showcasing Russell's music using an archival footage, interviews and some lyrical images shot by Jody Lee Lipes. And it's good to see his don't-know-him-but-love-him-all-the-same parents. Good to know that there are some decent folks out there.

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