Let's begin in 2001 when Sufjan Stevens (before he was taking on all fifty states or filming hula hooping girls on the BQE), a relatively unknown quirky folk-rock character, released a sophomore album of sorts entitled Enjoy Your Rabbit an electro-instrumental project inspired by the Chinese Zodiac. The album featured a lot of beeps, clicks, drum machines, and electronic keyboards and songs named after each year (Year of the Dragon, etc.). Fast forward to 2006 when Bryce Dessner (The National) suggested Stevens re-arrange the album for the string quartet Osso (who work with Sufjan on Illinois). Dessner commissioned composer Mike Atkinson to arrange the first four songs for a performance at the 2007 Music Now festival in Cincinnati, Ohio. The response was so positive that Sufjan decided to re-arrange that remaining songs and enlisted the help of Osso violinists Rob Moose (Antony and the Johnsons, Beth Orton) and Olivier Manchon (Clare and the Reasons, Orchestre de Chambre Miniature), Russian composer Maxim Moston (Antony and the Johnsons, Joan As Policewoman, Slow Six), Nico Muhly (Bjork, The National, Philip Glass), and Gabriel Kahane (who can be heard playing the piano cadenza on Sufjan's cover of "You Are The Blood" on the Dark Was the Night Compilation) to work on each piece.
The resulting Run Rabbit Run sounds more natural than the original, as though the entire album was created in order to be reborn; these second generation songs wear strings well. The electro-blips and computer squeaks have been replaced with tongue clicking and whining violin bow, the added depth of human texture. Tracks like "Year of the Dragon" and "Year of the Horse" are beautiful, melancholy, and dramatic while "Year of the Ox" and "Year of the Dog" skip and play with lithe plucks. Technically, the album is Osso's debut record, and in late October Osso will begin a tour of North America promoting the record. Run Rabbit Run is due out October 6 on Sufjan's label Asthmatic Kitty. -Amelia Trask