t is indicative of Arthur Russell’s peculiarity that 25 years on, with a heap of perspective, it remains difficult to imagine a New York club collectively freaking out to an oddity like “#1 (You’re Gonna Be Clean on Your Bean)” or “#5 (Go Bang!).” But, as a recent Wax Poetics article illuminated, there Russell was, shyly in the back, beaming as his latest acetate boiled the dance floor. Repeated listens to Russell’s work as Dinosaur L make the raucous scene seem no more likely. Russell’s only album under the moniker, 24->24 Music was the result of deliberately obtuse ideas stacked upon one another—programmed beats shifting every 24 bars provided the basis for studio musicians to improvise grooves.
Russell’s dance music is revered for its deft experimental touches, but 24->24 Music blows by “deft” and finds “perverse” with alarming consistency. Cracked vocal tracks shout bizarre mantras; at one point during “#3 (In the Corn Belt)” an operatic voice lets loose: “In the corn belt / Corn corn coooooooorn!” I believe the organ under the extended edit of “Clean on Your Bean #1” to have contracted an illness. In the waning moments of “#2 (No, Thank You)” someone interjects, “I meant no thank you please.” 24->24 Music is similarly round and silly throughout.
This isn’t to say that 24->24 Music ever crosses over into abstraction. Rather, it is a restless, effervescent mix anchored by robust funk horns, mincing guitars, and jazz organs, affording the album, largely a collection of lengthy 12” singles anyway, a cohesiveness it probably never aspired to. Supplying those building blocks was a creative gaggle of studio musicians enlisted by Russell, chief among them the Ingram Family, a Camden, NJ disco-funk outfit that turned in a set of sturdily rippling jams. Members of the avant-garde scene—including Russell himself on cello—filled in the cracks. The arrangements bear out this relationship, a group of convincing dance tracks skip off in noisy directions. “In the Corn Belt” juxtaposes a straight disco-funk bass line with gnashing guitar. “#6 (Get Set)” features a weirdly foreboding organ drone and axe-work worthy of Adrian Belew. The “Thank You Aruther” edit of “Go Bang”—one of three versions of the song included here—brilliantly mutes everything save for the knocking drum pattern.
This reissue compiles the Francois Kevorkian mix of “Go Bang” and Larry Levan mix of “In the Cornbelt” that appeared on the still-essential The World of Arthur Russell. The original 1981 album itself includes two separate mixes of “Clean on Your Bean,” and there’s those three versions of “Go Bang” to sort through. Amid all of this, “Kiss Me Again,” the group’s debut single with David Byrne on guitar, is stupidly omitted, making an album already slim on indispensables needlessly incomplete as well. So 24->24 Music is lacking as a historical document, but Russell’s work was never really “a product of its time,” and neither is 24->24 Music; it spazzes and jukes and, best of all, goes belly up laughing. Unbelievably, it asks entire rooms of people to do the same.