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Rasputina
Oh Perilous World
Filthy Bonnet Recording Company
www.rasputina.com


Rasputina's latest release Oh Perilous World, produced by the group's creator, lead singer, and cellist Melora Creager and record producer Charlie Campbell (Tess Wiley, Takeovers), is a collection that subscribes to an avant garde vibe conceived by classic, melodic, and Gothic garnishes. Creager and her partners, drummer Jonathan TeBeest and second chair and harmony vocalist Sarah Bowman, produce an alloy of chamber pop and Goth rock extractions that pull together opposites depicting both campy and sophisticated, melodic and dissonant, heavenly bright and hellishly snarling. At certain points the music has a fairytale quality and at other turns, it becomes stinging and volatile. The songs create a fantasy realm like the destruction of Fallujah represented in the song "In Old Yellowcake" and the world learning about it in the track "Old Yellowcake Breaking News." The lyrics are fluid and poetic and succinctly swing into being abstract and razor sharp, slicing through the melodic phrases.

Rasputina has always been like this since Creager began the group in New York City during the mid-'90s after opening for Nirvana on their In Utero tour. Though the group remains steadfast in chamber rock, Rasputina continues to tap into new material that world events inspire. What has kept Rasputina evolving is that the world is forever changing while they stay steady through the inclement changes.

Rasputina's specialty is in the way they expand the brushed strokes and plucking of the cello to sound like an amplified guitar, a choir of sitars, rattling tambourines, or the echoing passages of a synthesizer. The band produces Oriental-tinged textures and tabla modulated percussions on numbers like "1816 The Year Without A Summer," "We Stay Behind," and "Child Soldier Rebellion" while the delicate drum rolls and swirling strings on "The Pruning" create a fairytale gale. The winded tango rhythms on "The Infidel Is Me" pulsate seductively along to Creager's vocals with a lively rapport and visceral precision, whereas her vocals and the xylophone registers on "Oh Bring Back The Egg Unbroken" project a séance-imbued trance. Creager's vocals float in and out of the melody like an apparition as the instrumentation creates a banshee-like dance for the oracle-toned lyrics garnering a theatrical pop sensibility with the likes of The Dresden Dolls.

Creager's vocal dips and toy-like recorder registers on "Cage In A Cave" have a catchy jingle momentum that makes the tune fun. Her animated vocal hooks on "Incident In A Medical Clinic" have a Goth-metal cackle with chamber-fifed strings sowing a theatrical pop atmosphere which turns into a punk rock scheme on "In Old Yellowcake", suspending tangling strings as Creager's rapid vocals stir up the procession. What is fascinating about Creager's vocals is that she is so animated, managing amazing feats and yet it's so deceptively accessible, making it seem possible for anyone to sing like that. Similar to the flips of a professional trapeze artist, the moves are difficult but Creager projects her voice in a way that entices others to reach for those feats. Another charm that Rasputina possesses.

The lyrics are poignant, giving the melodies more substance like in the song "Child Soldier Rebellion" which is about an African children's army: "The younger they are the more fearless/ But they were betrayed by merchants who offered seven ships/ 'We were maimed, tortured and kidnapped. They cut off ears, limbs, and lips'/ Oh my dears, when they hear the news that's been written in tears/ They will know there's no way to excuse the lies that were used to force them to fight." The lyrics speak for those who lack a position of power and have been oppressed by those who hold power, sometimes the lyrics speak from the point of view of the powerful like in "Choose Me For A Champion." The lyrics are spooky and compassionate and tear into society's positive image which Rasputina reveals are mere fabrications.

Rasputina has a reputation for portraying feminine icons garbed in "Victorian White" bloomers, corsets, and hoopskirts. Their music can be both coarse and mellifluous, pristine and frolicking, oscillating between portraying childlike wonderment and dreadful nightmares. The songs show a trance-like state and sharp witted instincts which remain a vital part of the group's substance. No one does it like Rasputina, and yet the group plays as if everyone can do what they do.

-Susan Frances


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