XL Recordings’ Richard Russell returns under his musically collaborative pseudonym Everything is Recorded, with proof of the intoxicating nature of music done right.
Richard Russell established a foothold in the music industry as an A&R scout for XL Recordings in the early 90s and since then, his ear for new talent has been notoriously flawless, often cited as responsible for designing much of modern Britain’s musical canon. At XL he’s been behind the signing of acts such as The Prodigy, Adele, Dizzee Rascal and King Krule, but what’s exciting about his work under Everything is Recorded is that it permits him to collaborate more loosely with emerging artists, where his involvement at XL does not. His latest album, FRIDAY FOREVER, continues to take advantage of such an opportunity and sees Russell recruiting artists from vastly different genres and different eras to create an album which explores the relationship between time, sound, and the human psyche.
As a producer who emerged in the early 90s – a time of cut-throat musical competition, with Top of the Pops and the like – it is interesting to note the collaborative nature of Russell’s own projects. On the latest album he continues to take his own penname very literally, using samples to combine voices from the past with those of the present. In 02:56AM / I DON’T WANT THIS FEELING TO STOP, Russell uses reggae legend Mikey Dread to compliment the more hyperactive sound which young rapper Flohio brings to the track. The temporal disparity that divides the two artists carries obvious significance on an album which confronts the progression of time, an album which forces its listeners to move from evening to night to morning in pursuit of some high, some euphoria. However, this particular track, in its combination of old and new, seems to reject that inevitable progression, and we too find ourselves escaping such temporal constraints. Escapism is something which repeatedly finds its way into the album, usually in allusions to recreational drugs, but here Russell seems to say that music, when done right, is as class A as it gets.
'What’s exciting about his work under Everything is Recorded is that it permits him to collaborate more loosely with emerging artists'.
Immediately enjoyable as it is, there’s something jarring about listening to FRIDAY FOREVER; there’s a tension, one which jabs at the listener. It exists in every aspect of the album: the title, the contradiction in the lyrics and in samples – always there and always subtle. This idea is perhaps most noticeable and intentional in its production, something which splits the album into two antithetical halves; the first is based on the driving force of high BPM sampling (songs like 10:51PM / THE NIGHT and 12:12AM / PATIENTS (FUCKING UP A FRIDAY) being good examples of this), while the second shifts to production grounded in live instrumentation (as in 09:35AM / PRETENDING NOTHINGS WRONG).
In the context of an album which makes its listeners follow the narrative of a night out in London, the intention behind such antithesis seems clear: it presents listeners with the pursuit of the high, the intoxication, the escape, and then counters it with the inevitable come down the day after. Though not immediately artful or intellectual, it’s an idea which Russell embeds with deep dichotomies in each track and each verse. In doing so, he finds himself tackling a thought-provoking aspect of the human experience – finding balance.
'Escapism is something which repeatedly finds its way into the album, usually in allusions to recreational drugs, but here Russell seems to say that music, when done right, is as class A as it gets'.
The opposing performances of BERWYN and Kean Kavanagh are particularly effective in expressing such contrast between the light and the dark, the yin and the yang, moving the listener from a state of infectious hunger and energy to one of desolate surrender.
It has been said that XL Recordings operates more like an art gallery than a record label, and its latest installation, FRIDAY FOREVER, is an exhibition in itself, one which contemplates the antithetical nature of existence, and allows listeners to observe the pursuit of balance in modern times.