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.

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