MYSHKIN'S RUBY WARBLERS: Corvidae
This is an unusual fusion of cabaret, singer-songwriter, lounge-jazz and gypsy music, yet it's not quite any of those things. Myshkin's promo material says "Gypsy torch punk" but the word "punk" must just be an attention-grabber, because although there are faint hints of anger and brashness in some of her lyrics, there's nothing remotely punk on this CD. Punk is rebellious. Punk is snotty. Punk is intentionally ugly. But Myshkin is world-weary, resigned, with much beauty in her music and in the achy thickness of her voice.
Also, while punk's roots are in Britain and America, this music hardly seems a product of Anglo-Saxon culture at all in spite of its jazzy elements and English words. I hear echoes of French chanteuses, of Jacques Brel, of Spanish and Gypsy music. OK, maybe a little bit of Elvis Costello too, circa Spike. And though she's now based in Portland OR, and there's plenty of mist here, it sounds as if Myshkin's years in New Orleans were most formative to this music, which has both the prettiness and the grittiness of salt air and ancient streets.
In one format or another, Myshkin has been making recordings for over a decade. Here the singer-songwriter-guitarist and her able bandmates weave multicolored soundscapes for bittersweet (heavy on the bitter) tales of love and wartime. "Drunk" is haunting tune about not putting down roots. "Caledonia" suggests Albeniz set to a electronic beat. "Pipeline" is truly creepy, with its innocent-sounding melody and lyrics of near-surrealistic horror:
I don’t know who put the holes in the pipeline
I don’t know why there were holes in the pipeline
All that I know, gasoline flowed from those holes like silver wine
I caught that gasoline in any old jar I could find
Caught that gasoline in any old bottle
One hundred or more of my neighbors caught gasoline by my side
The fumes made you dizzy the gas burned your skin
The fumes made you sick and the gas burned your skin
But we shouted and laughed like it was silver or silk we were bathing in
True story? Don't know. Searing imagery? Check.
Though it doesn't sound very much like any other particular artist, this CD should appeal to fans of Annie Lennox, Leonard Cohen, Erik Rohmer films, Felix Mendelssohn, Marianne Faithfull, PJ Harvey, Elvis Costello, and Yo-Yo Ma, to name a few. Myshkin sums up a pretty reasonable approach to art and life in "Bird of Paradise":
Very little we must say
But it’s good if we say it anyway
Help you loose your storms it helps me
Find all my scattered pearls