Rasputina/ Cabin Fever
In this day and age, the muck on the radio consists of little more than pretty face singing over the same background music again and again. People clamor for music that breaks the mold, they desire music that takes a more traditional approach. Well, how's three cellos for traditional?
On their third release, named Cabin Fever (Instinct Records), Rasputina continues to show us that classical instruments such as the cello have just as much of a place in contemporary music as they do in the recital halls of Juliard. Traditional, however, is about the last word one would use to describe the eerie sounds on this album. While the group, consisting of band leader/singer/cellist Melora Creager, cellist K. Cowperthwaite, and cellist Nana Bornant, sticks to the strings and bows, they run them through modern production and sound altercation.
Several tracks use samples, and the drums on the whole album are programmed, but what's really fascinating is the sounds on the album that are made with the cellos. On tracks like "State Fair", "Rats", and "Antique High Hell Red Doll Shoes", it sounds like they're playing distorted guitar, but those Ministry-esque tones are cellos, they've just been distorted. The album is very dyslexic in its feel, moving effortlessly from tracks that have nothing but vocals and unaltered cellos (which is what their first album was) to ones where everything has been distorted or processed. Holding true to the gothic/industrial sound of the album, the lyrical content of the album is dark and creepy, but also whimsical and charming. Think of it as a cross between Mother Goose and Edgar Allen Poe.
This is apparent right from the start, the first track named "Gingerbread Coffin", describing a burial/magical ceremony for a broken doll, yet is sung with a voice more reminiscent of a mother telling her child a bedtime story. Probably the best example of this is a verse from "Our Lies": "Yes mom, I'm still a virgin. And you're Marilyn Monroe. When I was a little girl, we grew wings and flew to see my daddy, Mr. Edgar Allen Poe. I'd crawl into the furnace to take warm nap on the cast-iron lap of Walt disney." This perfect combination of fairy tales and Mary Shelley is a refreshing break in a genre that's managed to say "I hate my life" in too many ways.
The most entertaining track on the album has to be "PJ + Vincent & Matthew + Bjork", which consists of a twisted pseudo-celebrity double-date over a slow cello line. Hearing an impression of Bjork telling us about her "erotic reawakening" is funny enough to make you squirt milk out your nose. Of course, no discussion of Rasputina would be complete without bring up their outlandish show attire. When performing live, they dress in Victorian-era hoops, skirts, bloomers and corsets. This crazy get-up is strikingly original and has earned their concerts a distinct reputation.
Overall, Cabin Fever is an album that is good, but not for everyone. While some of the songs have a broad appeal, such as the beautiful "Thimble Island" on which Melora plays a dulcimer, most of them have a feel that you either love or don't care for. However, if you like music along the lines of Switchblade Symphony, or simply want to listen to a gothic/industrial group that avoids the cliches, this album would be a classical classic in your collection.