Everything is Recorded - Everything is Recorded by Richard Russell
Everything is Recorded
Everything is Recorded by Richard Russell
You may not have heard of Richard Russell but his impact on music is surely one you've felt at some point. As the head of XL Recordings Russell signed superstars like Vampire Weekend, Thom Yorke, Frank Ocean and Adele shifting his personal creative process toward boosting up other artists. He still has a vibe of his own and an R&B aesthetic that feels very reminiscent of Frank Ocean. Those heavy hitters though don't make their way onto this record and instead Russell enlists the XL Recordings B-side squad like Sampha, Kamasi Washington and Syd. They lend their voices to his wil imagination where R&B doesn't have the same kind of limits we usually put upon it. There are times where it is direct and clear the evolution from old school R&B to today like on "Close But Not Quite" with Sampha or the more wild outings like the track with Giggs "Wet Looking Road" You just have no idea what Russell is going to throw at you next or where his style is going to take him. The record is a wide open road, probably why the title is so vague and plain. This album is rich with influences from Motown to hip hop and back again, but never losing this sense of a singular vision. You would expect this really great singers and musicians to bring to much of themselves onto these tracks and dilute what Russell is trying to do, but that never happens, they just slide right in and find this comfortable balance of their voice and his. In 2013 Richard Russell was diagnosed with a really rare auto-immune disease and the shock shook him into starting to record his own stuff again. That sense of urgency is here, as well as the stakes a life threatening illness may induce but, there is also this ease and tranquility to the record that is unmatched.
There are a couple of moments where you wish things were a bit different. "She Said" sounds like it was written specifically for Anderson .paak but He's not on it and instead we have Obongjayar doing his best impression for a bit. Syd's appearance on "Show Love" does not fall into this category with her bringing that absolutely silky voice to the table making you yearn for a new The Internet record. Where it feels like Frank Ocean is trying to break R&B down and deconstruct the whole thing to build it back up again, Richard Russell takes a more reverential stance. That doesn't mean He allows the usual tropes of R&B to bowl him over or take precedence over some more of the experimental ideas. However on tracks like "Be My Friend" he throws it all out and gives us this disparate and minimal track that conveys this sense of loneliness that is so much more than just not being in a relationship. This entire record is really about being in your own skin and being comfortable with that rather than searching for validation in others. The combination of strings and electronics is awe inspiring on the title track, even if it is a bit ruined by Owen Pallet's vocal which is so oddly high in pitch. This record feels so new and so vibrant even if it's subject matter is heavy and daunting. A true gem of a record that won't get it's due because streaming algorithms have yet to figure out how to give this diverse of an artists lineup credit. But people will whisper about this record, trade it in secret and perhaps that way it will get the appreciation it deserves.
8.6 out of 10