Arthur’s Landing, Standard Planets Channel Arthur Russell’s ‘In the Light of the Miracle’
London trio teams up with late musicians collaborators for space-disco single
Earlier this month, the Red Hot Organization announced This Is How We Walk on the Moon, a collection of Arthur Russell covers performed by a wide range of contemporary artists — comparative left-fielders like Laurel Halo and Sandro Perri alongside Robyn, Hot Chip, and even Scissor Sisters. As it happens, that’s not the only Arthur Russell tribute coming this year. Arthur’s Landing, a collective of the late avant-disco musician’s former collaborators, have teamed up with the London trio Standard Planets to release a version of “In the Light of the Miracle” as a limited 12-inch single.
Led by the guitarist Steven Hall, Arthur’s Landing brings together a number of musicians who worked closely with Russell, including percussionists Bill Ruyle and Mustafa Ahmed, singer and clarinetist Joyce Bowden, bassist Ernie Brooks, and trombonist Peter Zummo; their debut album, released last year, was a collection of Arthur Russell covers that often sounded little like their source material. (That in itself recalls Russell’s own approach: He recorded many songs over and over again, and they never sounded the same way twice.) Standard Planets have a far less conspicuous profile, with only a single compilation credit to their name so far; the songs available on their SoundCloud page are a strange amalgam of pop and electronics, alternately suggesting Roxy Music, Depeche Mode, 1990s post-rock, and contemporary Animal Collectivism. “We want people to get back to believing, contributing and progressing towards a common utopian ideal,” they explained to the Quietus last year — a sentiment that might help explain their affinity for Russell’s own music.
“Miracle,” the two groups’ collaboration, bears scant resemblance to any of Russell’s various versions of “In the Light of the Miracle,” but the lyric gives it away. Only six minutes long, it careers through Codeine funk, keening synthesizer fugues, full-bore horn charts, and a particularly squishy kind of disco. Echoes of Talk Talk collide with fragments of vintage house, and it’s raw as anything: Oscillators detune wildly and drum machines go haywire in mid-beat, lending the same kind of seat-of-its-pants quality that animated so much of Russell’s own recordings. It’s less a cover version than an invocation; less a landing than a slow-motion blast-off.
Listen to “Miracle” below, and watch for the single on Steven Hall’s Buddhist Army label this winter.