Label: Buddhist Army
Artist: Nirosta Steel
Title: Dry Ice
Catalogue number: BA-1006
Release date: 03 Nov 2017
Nirosta Steel represents the solo tunes and collaborations of Steven Hall , the Scottish singer/guitarist who moonlights as the leader of Brooklyn’s Arthur’s Landing . Dry Ice collects songs recorded in the ’80s and ’90s under various circumstances and worldly locations. The songs were initially selected by Elodie Lauten after going through hundreds of assorted CDs of Steven ‘s unreleased compositions. Released as a limited CD-only issue in 2003, Dry Ice has been unearthed and remastered by Steven ‘s Buddhist Army label for the digital age.
“I circled the world – there was some dancing” is a lyric from the album’s Dawn Reality , and the verse serves as a summary of Steven ‘s life at the time. Included are songs recorded in Taiwan (at Taipei’s first ADAT studio ), Hong Kong, Brooklyn, and other undisclosed locations, and contributions from trombonist Peter Zummo, Mustafa Ahmed , and Elodie Lauten – original members of Arthur’s Landing – and Hong Kong pop stars Lam Yee Man and Fred Wong . It’s afascinating and sprawling collection, spanning disparate genres such as improv disco, lo-fi folk funk, and country soul. Steven ‘s distinctive songwriting voice is the glue that bonds the tracks, with thoughtful, wistful, and often humorous lyrics adding dimension to an already kaleidoscopic oeuvre. Dry Ice also features the lovely Lost In Thought , a song co-written with Steven ‘s friend, the late, legendary Arthur Russell . Says Steven , “When I complained to Arthur that I thought the song was too pretty he said ‘don’t be afraid to make something pretty!'” Dry Ice also features two bonus tracks: a pair of swirly cosmic dance remixes from Whiskey Disco impresario Sleazy McQueen in collaboration with Colombian duo Vagabundo Club Social . The original tapes of Atmo and Lite Nite have been twisted, filtered, and given a respectful modern nightclub treatment, with McQueen drawing upon the magic feel of the 1980s NYC dance scene to guide his way. These versions, mixed by Handshake Music , connect the history around Steven ‘s recordings to the DJs of today. Steven Hall grew up in Scotland in the ’60s, singing in church choirs and learning the bagpipes. “I was shy, and wanted to be cool and meet boys and girls, so I taught myself the guitar and learned the songs of The Beatles , Joni Mitchell , and Donovan .” Steven emigrated to the US at age 15.
After high school, he moved to New York where he hung out with artists, dancers, and musicians. There he met Allen Ginsberg who invited him to attend Naropa Buddhist University in Colorado. At Naropa , Steven studied writing with Ginsberg and William Burroughs and music with Don Cherry . Back in New York, Steven met Arthur Russell . ” Allen introduced me to Arthur Russell – we became Allen ‘s backup band, then Arthur asked me to play guitar for him.” Steven and Arthur performed together in downtown clubs like CBGBs , The Mudd Club , and Max’s Kansas City as The Sailboats and Bright & Early . Steven later sang on some of Arthur ‘s disco hits like Tell You Today and Is It All Over My Face? After Arthur died, Steven and a bunch of mutual friends formed Arthur’s Landing to remember him by playing his music. Meanwhile, Nirosta Steel is the name Steven uses for his solo music – queer love songs and remixes he creates for friends.