I was a bit of a latecomer to the music of Arthur Russell, but somewhere along the way I heard World Of Echo and Calling Out Of Context and became an instant fan. Fortunately, Audika Records has kept me and other fans satisfied, with a slew of other releases, including the excellent chilled-out instrumental First Thought, Best Thought and the more dance-oriented Springfield EP. With more albums supposedly on the way, and a documentary film about his life in the works, hopefully even more people will discover his truly unique talents.
As I've mentioned in other reviews, Russell was not only incredibly prolific, but also put out work that amazingly diverse. 24/24 collects singles and other songs that he put together with a variety of different musicians under the name Dinosaur L, and once again it's something almost completely different than what one might expect. For most tracks, Russell arranged the beats so that they would change every 24 bars (hence, the title) and basically told the musicians to improvise around that. The result is dance music that dips into disco, dance rock, and a slew of other styles as weird vocals and other musical oddities pop up in different places.
"#1 (You're Gonna Be Clean On Your Bean)" kicks things off, and is just about as odd as the title would suggest, with a sort of disco house rhythm keeping time behind deflated horns and quiet organ. In places, over-the-top vocal yelps burst into the mix, taking it even further from something that might play out as smooth. "#5 (Go Bang!)" continues with a similar beat, and again adds some shakey vocals for the opening, but explodes into a sparkling dance track that's both funky and way more textural and adventurous than one would expect from the same era.
The rest of the release is in parts interesting, frustrating, and wondrous. The short "#7" blisters with a loose-limbed rock edge that makes you wish it would continue for five times it's two-minute length, while "#3 (In The Corn Belt)" mixes queasy disco rock instrumentation with hilariously dramatic vocals in a way that's a bit too much. The best track on the entire release may very well be "#6 (Get Set)," a seven-minute churner that somehow blends house, disco, R&B, funk, and rock music into a ferocious stew that still sounds ahead of its time. A good portion of the release is comprised of remixes and alternate tracks that don't offer a ton of variety, but there are certainly a few shining moments here. Head elsewhere if you're looking for the best of Russell, but if you're looking for a full understanding of his body of work this is yet another unique angle.