||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
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.