B-Side: World of Echo

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Disclaimer: Hello! Apparently, the anecdote related about Kevin Killian in this episode is a misremembered falsehood. For a more factual account of his relationship to Arthur Russell, read “Hold On To Your Dreams” by Tim Lawrence. Also, Max’s views on poets and poetry are hers and hers alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Andrew, our guests, or Desert Island Discourse as a whole. Best not to pay much attention them, she’s a bit of a crank.

“The name of the next B-Side is: ‘We’re Sorry, But This is How We Learn'”

Has the winter fog settled in where you are? We wouldn’t know, since our island is in a permanent state of miserable sunshine. But we’ve found a pretty close approximation in World of Echo, by famed composer/cellist/disco-ist Arthur Russell. As the one official album released in his tragically short lifetime, World of Echo holds a unique place in his mostly posthumous discography. Where the vast majority of the albums that have built up his legacy were thematically curated by the heroic archivists at Audika, World of Echo was a purposeful release, designed, composed, and recorded to be an album. As such, it is, in many ways, his most definitive artistic statement.

But it’s also a weird outlier in a career filled with outliers. Where many of his other tracks feel like experiments in whatever his obsessions of the moment were, World of Echo feels startlingly personal, mostly free of his usual conceptual underpinnings. The whole album is just Arthur, his cello, and a few pedals, recorded live and transformed into a thing of vague, heart-breaking beauty. Songs from such far flung projects as his disco single “Let’s Go Swimming” and rejected Medea score “Tower of Meaning” find a home here in radically different forms. There’s really nothing else like it.

Which makes it kind of hard for us to talk about, but damn if we aren’t gonna try. And amidst our many tangents and difficult grasping for words, there is a very real, brief account of how two analytically minded music-lovers try to unpack such a mysterious object. Also: Max unjustly slanders a beloved poet, Jeff Buckley spits in a bucket, and we reveal why Andrew can never leave the podcast.

Music:

The Name of the Next Song
Lucky Cloud
Let’s Go Swimming (Walter Gibbons Mix)
Let’s Go Swimming
See-Through
Soon-To-Be Innocent Fun

2 thoughts on “B-Side: World of Echo

  1. Kevin Killian

    Hi Max and Andrew, I don’t know which one of you hates me, but the one who does is not remembering correctly my appearance at Flying Object four years ago. “I kind of hate Kevin Killian” indeed! I never claimed that Arthur Russell asked to blow me. Indeed he never did. Nor were we together at any queer party. He and I were involved very briefly that’s all, and you can read all about it in maybe a page and a half of Tim Lawrence’s biography of AR “Hold On To Your Dreams.” I’m not that bad and I don’t know why I rubbed you the wrong way. “Apropos of nothing,” you say, I launched into this story. It was a poetry reading and that was part of a poem I was reading, poems don’t have to be apropos of anything, do they? Or did you learn otherwise at the Flying Object? It’s true that I’m married to Dodie Bellamy. I enjoyed the rest of your podcast however, and I wish you well, both of you.

    • desertislanddiscourse

      Hey Kevin! Thanks for commenting, and I apologize for getting the story wrong (it has been awhile). We’ll add a correction to the top of the description so people know before going into it.

      For what it’s worth, I don’t actually hate you! I’m sure you’re a very nice person. I just didn’t care for the reading and am prone to exaggeration while drinking (something, I think, that many poets are guilty of). And you’re right about poems (as much as anyone can be), I just remembered it as being an aside between poems.

      That said, I apologize for the comments, and I’m glad you were able to enjoy the podcast regardless. I hope you continue to listen in spite of the accidental slander!

      -Max

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