From the doom-laded drum intro and tortured strings of opening track 1816, The Year Without A Summer, Oh Perilous World is an amazing album, something truly original to whet your musical taste buds for 2008.
As befits a performer currently supporting Robyn Hitchcock live (and who has formerly played cello with Nirvana and collaborated with members of Nine Inch Nails), this is truly twisted folk, weaving elements of Russian folk with Renaissance punk. If only all chamber music sounded so good, we’d set up camp in the Royal Festival Hall and never, ever dare to leave.
Just put your fingers in your ears and shout ‘la la la’ (though not for very long) if the description of Oh Perilous World as a concept album is likely to put you off.
Grit your teeth and down a very large whiskey through the points where you realise that that ‘concept’ is in fact a series of songs based around words and phrases plucked from news stories and current events and reinterpreted through weird production tricks and an oddly-played cello. Honestly, this approach is all right – The Beatles once told you so, and you trust them, don’t you?
Second track Choose Me For A Champion is a spoken word interpretation of an Osama bin Laden speech, the whole album unites into a retelling of the Mutiny On The Bounty myth, and there’s a track based on explaining what the weather was like while Mary mShelley was writing Frankenstein, but even after all that, it’s not something you need to run from.
If you love this album – and you should – you’re either already familiar with The Mekons and Kathy Acker’s magnum opus Pussy King Of The Pirates or you need to acquaint yourself with it as soon as possible. Oh Perilous World drips with the same bizarreness and musical subterfuge. Low strings and singing-avoidance strategies haven’t sounded as good since The Velvet Underground recorded The Gift, and it’s arguable they did even then.
Melora Creager, Rasputina’s songstress, creator and producer has, in past incarnations, opened for 4AD stalwarts Pixies, Belly and Throwing Muses and if there is a single performer she can be compared with, Kristin Hersh fits the bill pretty well. There’s the same mix of tradition and utter modernity in her sound, as if in a world of alt rock fairytales, Hersh decided to front the Pixies for a one-off concert under a full Moon.
Today, Rasputina are more likely to be lumped in with freak folksters such as Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom but to append them to any current trend would be a grave underestimation of their talents, not least because Oh Perilous World is their fifth studio album in a career spanning 15 years.
From the haunting string solo of Child Soldier Rebellion to the deeply seductive We Stay Behind this is an incredible, beautiful, challenging and unmissable album from a truly innovative performer.