School Bell / Treehouse
Chances are if you are reading this, you are probably already familiar with Dinosaur L's “Go Bang” and danced countless times to Loose Joints' "It's All Over My Face". A prolific musician, Arthur Russell produced an abundant amount of recordings over the course of his career. Although a classically trained cellist, he released a number of successful underground dance hits under various monikers and collaborations. As a solo artist however, his inability to complete projects resulted in a limited amount of official releases; World of Echo (1986) being his only full-length solo effort to see release in his lifetime. After releasing a number of Club singles on labels like West End & Sire, Russell went on to form Sleeping Bag Records with Will Socolov as an outlet for a sound not as restrictive as his "disco" material. The initial concept was that Russell would provide the musical direction while Socolov handled the business side. The label had huge success early on with Class Action’s “Weekend” remixed by Larry Levan, and Russell’s seminal “Go Bang,” credited to Dinosaur L and remixed by Francois Kevorkian. Although Russell and Socolov shared a lot of musical common ground, the difference in vision began to show. Russell’s avant-garde sensibilities and perfectionism were not compatible with an industry standard to release singles in quick succession, and his "work in progress" approach began to be financially draining, ultimately resulting in the dissolution of their partnership around 1983. With Arthur's departure, Sleeping Bag moved away from the experimental and towards a successful hip-hop route with the growing involvement of Kurtis Mantronik and leading to propel the careers of artists like Todd Terry, Just-Ice and EPMD. By the mid-80s, Russell’s health began to deteriorate after contracting HIV. Although the business partnership did not work out, Socolov and Russell maintained their friendship. Aware of the time he had left, Russell reached out to Socolov to record what was to become Indian Ocean, his last release on Sleeping Bag and the last great collaboration between Arthur and his old friend Walter Gibbons. Unlike the rest of Russell's Dance collaborations, “School Bell/Treehouse” is very intimate composition, putting to the forefront all the elements that defined him musically; with his own voice and cello as the anchors to a piece that keeps growing in intensity, melding the tribal rhythms of Mustafa Ahmed’s conga with percussions that sound like distorted drum machines. There is a lot of beauty in this piece, with Peter Zummo's melancholic trombone lines and Arthur's keyboard playing. Adequately "mixed with love" by Walter Gibbons, "School Bell/Treehouse" really synthesizes the energy and soundscapes of Arthur's dancefloor.