Bruce Russell - 21st Century Field Hollers & Prison Songs (2005)


In an intriguing act of self-exhumation, Bruce Russell has plundered the carcass of his own (with Ralf Wehowsky) earlier release on a bruit secret, ‘Midnight Crossroads Tape Recorder Blues’ (a recording with which I’m not familiar), extracting elements that held for him a particularly bluesy resonance, re-recording them at odd speeds and then constructing loops to create (almost) entirely new works. That blues (and dub) feeling really does permeate the tracks, sometimes overtly, other times requiring a certain amount of aural perseverance.

But the fact that Russell does generally utilize loops makes for a certain ease of entry as even the harshest or most abstract nodules attain some familiarity with each repetition. The opening “Black Car Blues” creates a murky, gelid atmosphere with shards that may have been lifted from “Concret ph” knifing through the gloom. You could likely derive a good deal of amusement attempting to ID sources throughout the disc. I swear the second track, “Kate’s Blues #3”, contains a segment from Frith’s “No Birds”…but I could be wrong. On the other hand, if that’s not the loopy synth from “Space Is the Place” popping up on “Dirty Water Dub” (great title) I’ll eat my pixels. Many of the nine, shortish tracks (the disc as a whole is barely over a half-hour) are guitar-driven, allowing Russell to at least hint at blues wails and often more than that, though lines of any clarity are swiftly chopped into stew-meat. By doing so, Russell achieves a chewy, rough medium between song and tape collage where the loops provide the form but the elements from which they’re created simultaneously subvert any such suggestion. My personal favorite is the final cut, relatively lengthy at five minutes where the music seems to branch out into wider territory, abandoning any specific genre--fittingly, it’s dedicated to Philip Samartzis. There’s a sense of stepping outside an area whose hermeticism wasn’t earlier perceptible; a very strong piece.