Arthur's Landing

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Dec 18
 

Arthur Russell died aged 40 in 1992, a musical pioneer not recognised until after his passing. Anderson Muth talks to Steven Hall about his event, Arthur’s Landing, and maintaining the increasingly important legacy of his departed friend

Arthur Russell was a cellist, composer, wide-ranging musician, and – perhaps above all else – a perfectionist. Recording and performing in New York’s avant-garde and nascent disco scene in the 1970s and 80s, Russell was a prolific artist – yet rarely released any music, instead preferring to deeply re-explore his own compositions. He enjoyed little recognition during his life – cut tragically short by Aids – however, eventually his ragtag collection of recordings, with varying names such as Dinosaur and Loose Joints, were championed by the likes of Larry Levan (Paradise Garage) and David Mancuso (The Loft) to tremendous acclaim. Thus, a genuine challenge arose for Steven Hall and other friends and musical collaborators. How best to honour and share Russell’s unique and inspirational work?

The result in 2015, after two decades of sporadic performances, is the morphing lineup – with Hall at the centre – that comprises Arthur’s Landing. Using Russell’s work as a launching point rather than a destination, each show is a unique experience with one goal: to achieve, as Hall explains based on Russell’s personal musical philosophy, a ‘Buddhist form of ecstasy on the dance floor.’ Hall does this not only in name through his Buddhist Army record label, which releases his own work as well as remixes and live recordings from Arthur’s Landing, but also in approach by following Russell’s artistic process where ‘something that’s planned is equally important as chance’.

Hall speaks with firm admiration for both Russell as a person and a creative force, explaining that Arthur’s Landing began as a healing process following his friend’s untimely death. He describes it as ‘a collective… all people who originally worked with Arthur’, but not exactly a proper band. He press the point, forcefully, that ‘we’re not a tribute band – every time is different’. Hall considers this a ‘mindful way of playing,’ paying respect to the original composition whilst allowing for a fresh interpretation every time. Reminiscing – but also perhaps referring to his own mentality, too – Hall explains that for Russell ‘the process was everything, the product was boring’.

That approach, one which involves making ‘everything into a groove’, results in a distinctly Hong Kong vibe for this one-off performance at Acadana. While Russell’s frameworks will be used – including recent instrumental (re)mixes – the focus is on the live performance from Hall (vox/acoustic guitar/synth) and Mavis Lung (揚琴/Chinese dulcimer), which transforms the set into a Chinese-tinged form of acoustic disco.

This performance – ‘people either get it or they don’t’, Hall admits with a smile – fits quite nicely into the recently resurgent underground disco scene in the city. The event is promoted under the banner of inclusive LGBTI night Bent Disco, which is also supplying Steve Mak and Ping to my Pong as supporting DJs. As for an appropriate setting, Hall speaks highly of hidden Fo Tan discotheque Acadana, describing it as ‘the coolest place in the city’. Appropriate for such a bleeding edge artist like Russell.

Arthur’s Landing Fri Dec 18, 8pm, Acadana, Fo Tan. $100 (door), $50 (with flyer). BYOB.

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