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Chamber-rock raconteurs Rasputina -– helmed by frill-bedecked cello sorceress Melora Creager –- are back with a sixth full-length release and it’s a surprisingly modern collection, considering the band’s penchant for the flamboyantly antique. A mind-bending concept album, Oh Perilous World casts Mary Todd Lincoln as the queen of Florida with an ominous blimp army intent on attacking Pitcairn Island, home of the famed Bounty mutineers and their descendants. But layered within this esoteric tale are lyrics inspired by the two years Creager spent following world events for inspiration. Examples of this creative leap are most evident in the rabble-rousing “Choose Me For Champion,” the lyrics of which are taken form a translated speech by Osama Bin Laden, and the monstrous yet melodic “Child Solder Rebellion,” a song that recontextualizes the phenomenon of children’s armies in Africa. Saturated with references both aged and au courant, Oh Perilous World is a postmodern neurotic’s delight, affirming that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Emily Rems/Bust Aug./Sept.

The cello-stoked trio Rasputina have shown fitful signs of brilliance in the past, but their grand ambitions have finally been realized on their sixth full-length CD, Oh Perilous World. The album’s fancifully tangled story lines and larger-than-life characters include Fletcher Christian’s son Thursday and a demented Mary Todd Lincoln, who leads her blimp army as the Queen of Florida. The lyrics to “Choose Me for Champion” are based on a speech by Osama bin Laden, while “In Old Yellowcake” references the battle for Fallujah. Bandleader Melora Creager (who got her start playing cello on tour with Nirvana) says that “current world events were more bizarre than anything” she could dream up, but the way she weaves such real and fictional events together is positively magical. A thicket of oppressive fuzz descends ominously on the aptly titled “Draconian Crackdown.” Foreboding cello strokes march like sentient redwoods, elegantly framing the hazy fantasy “A Retinue of Moons,” before being pulled back for the austere melody of “The Pruning.” What a weird and wonderful World. Falling James/LA Weekly 7/20

While Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart are seen as the torchbearers of the “freak-folk” movement, Rasputina can plausibly be called its progenitor. Unable to fit tidily into one genre for most of their 15-year career, the band’s use of stratified string arrangements, idiosyncratic vocals and antique songwriting should certainly receive some more attention now that the style is musically chic. World only reinforces singer/cellist Melora Creager’s bid as one of the more creative songwriters of the past decade. Kevin Kampwirth/CMJ New Music Monthly July 07

Rasputina have never gotten the props they deserve. Bandleader Melora Creager is more than just a tireless advocate for cellos and corsets or a role model for people who want to live in Tim Burton movies—she's exactly the sort of oddball alternate-world-building songwriter, artiste, and polymath who, were she male and her iconography less insistently girly, would surely command the devotion of countless shambling, shaggy-faced hipsters. Fortunately, she doesn't seem to need 'em. Oh Perilous World (Filthy Bonnet) is the sixth album from the group proper (needless to say, Creager's got her own sidelines going), and on it the ladies and dude get topical. Impressionistic and disjointed, with bits of current events woven into the usual off-kilter historical source material, the disc's tall-tale dreamscapes sometimes recall the Mekons—at their best and their worst. (And not just because they're the only two bands I can think of that've name-checked Fletcher Christian.) Creager's not shy about disrupting a groove to follow her own tangents wherever they may lead, whether her declared topic is "Old Yellowcake Breaking News" or "1816, the Year Without a Summer." - Monica Kendrick/Chicago Reader 7/5

Rasputina, perhaps the world’s only punk-prog-heavy-metal cello band, has always been fascinated with an imagined Victorian past, and has, moreover, regularly turned this fascination inside-out like a pretzel. Costumed in the restricted garb of turn-of-the-century womanhood, Melora Creager upends every notion of gentle femininity, howling and screeching and straddling an incendiary cello. Baroque musical flourishes remind us that Creager has been playing the cello since she was nine years of age, yet her startlingly heavy vamps and squawks (try “Draconian Crackdown") make Yo Yo Ma’s instrument of choice sound like a metal guitar. Archaic word forms and historically-rooted lyrics seem to place Creager’s art in some sort of Decemberists-gone-feral world. Yet she is only pretending to sing about the past or Mutiny on the Bounty or whatever’s on the surface. The sixth full-length Rasputina album is actually about right here and right now. Oh, Perilous World is the one we’re standing in ... and it’s getting kind of dark in here if you didn’t notice.
Consider, for instance, the opening cut, “1816, the Year Without a Summer,” couched in sawing cello rhythms and sung with a Morris dance’s minor-key lilt. On one level, the song is a frank and matter-of-fact description of weird historic meteorology; and yet you can’t help but hear an echo of latter day global warming anxiety in lyrics like: “Grain couldn’t ripen under these conditions / It was brought indoors in urns and pots / go from 95 degrees to freezing within hours / A bitter struggle for the people and starving livestock.” And later, the war on science emerges: “During the most severe year of this little ice age / we looked for scapegoats to blame / Many people tried to blame it on a vast conspiracy / of Benjamin Franklin and his experiments with electricity.” The song is an allegory and a straightforward story ... and the dots are never explicitly connected.
Similarly “Cage in a Cave” is, on its surface, a fairly straightforward exploration of the story of Fletcher Christian, one of the mutineers of Mutiny on the Bounty, who settled on Pitcairn Island, married a Taihitian woman and had children, before, most likely, being murdered by locals sometime in the 1790s. Creager imagines him hiding out secretly, “in a cage in a cave,” avoiding both angry indigenous peoples and rescuing Brits. It’s a song about isolation, depression, alienation, madness and death, gleefully delivered with swoops of cello and timpani rolls.
The direst song on this very bleak album is also the most rocking one. That’s “Draconian Crackdown”, all crunch and fuzz and Zeppelin-esque howl, musically, but lyrically as complex and inwardly rhymed as a Victorian death poem. Metal-face-air-guitar-riffs flare abruptly, splintering drum fills pound in the corners. Toward the front, Creager delivers a deadpan litany of woes ("Goiters / gout / boils / anthrax") that rhyme and scan and flow elegantly, matching “insurgency” to “emergency” with nonchalant precision.
Literate, carefully constructed, ferociously belted and rocked and drummed, these are songs for a hard-rocking apocalypse. The cello—like the Victorian females who populate these songs—is stronger, and angrier and more desperate than it seems. I’d get out of the way if I were you. This perilous world is about to blow. Jennifer Kelly/Popmatters.com 6/28

Cellist Melora Creager is the steady creative engine behind the otherwise revolving art-rock outfit Rasputina, which rolled onto the scene thanks to a push from artists such as Perry Farrell and Marilyn Manson. Blending European gothic imagery with a sometimes frantic cello-driven sound, Creager and company have carved out and inhabit a distinct musical cubbyhole since breaking out a decade ago. The group is touring in support of its seventh album, "Oh Perilous World," with Creager joined onstage by drummer Jonathon TeBeest and cellist Sarah Bowman. -- Brian McCollum, Detroit Free Press 7/7/07

This emerges from slurred dulcimer, humming cello and shambling percussion into "1816. The Year Without A Summer." Rasputina's sixth album lodges the intrinsically offbeat trio well left-of-center but they inhabit that spot with a naturalism that normalizes the unorthodox instrumentation and precipitous shifts in mood. "Choose Me For A Champion" incongruously evokes both Queen and Patti Smith, but "Cage in a Cave" chirps like Scandinavian radio fare, bright skipping in service of a dark rumination. In the past, Rasputina's eccentricities may have kept less adventurous listeners at bay but Oh Perilous World is perversely catchy, balancing the stormy bits with the pastoral ones in a pretty winning way. Dennis Cook/Jambase.com 8/22

As punk as chamber as folk, Rasputina’s gonzo appropriation of cello as its dominant instrument is a nifty trick: The strings lend themselves easily to dramatic or fanciful arrangements that often play subversively against the untamed vocalizing of Melora Creagan, the 15-year-old Brooklyn outfit’s resident banshee manqué and sole remaining original member. No longer a girls-only affair, the band has resolved into a core duo with drummer Jonathan TeBeest and a revolving second cello, now played by Sarah Bowman of the folk-pop duo the Bowmans.
The music on Oh Perilous World successfully defies category, most often achieving the feel of free-form cabaret: Creagan’s inherent theatricality makes each song a singular adventure. Her concept here translates historic current events into wordy narratives splashed with her colorful, extravagant string arrangements. In stretches, tracks like “The Pruning,” with their long-winded expositions, delicate interludes and thoughtfully mannered vocals evoke a darker-hearted Joanna Newsom. But what’s fun about this oddball song cycle is its refusal to stick to one style. “Draconian Crackdown,” besides the hilarious title, crunches like a Living Colour tribute, while “Old Yellowcake Breaking News,” an exaggerated reading of a news item about a natural disaster, is poker-faced like Frank Zappa at his spoofiest.
Though once gothy enough to attract collaborators such as Marilyn Manson and former Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna, Rasputina is the kind of act that is liberated by its elaborate concepts. Creagan long ago outlived any sense that the group was merely novel. And when she rips up the strings, which she does with ferocious vigor, it’s no joke.—Steve Dollar/Time Out Chicago 7/5

Rasputina is the bravest band in the world; or, Idolize Your Kills

Maybe Ian Hunter was right when he said "rock & roll eehs uh loser's gayhme" – it's a racket where many (artists, listeners, record company execs) routinely pay lip service to fearless originality and artistic audaciousness but when retreat when faced with the real deal. The pretenders get their piece of the action, though. In an interview in Tower Pulse, Al "Ministry" Jorgensen of Ministry justified his signing to a major label with some "arise, comrades" balloon juice about "destroying the system from within" – it's working, Al, record stores are closing and Evil Kong Lomerate profits are down! On the Tomorrow Show, John Lydon (nee Rotten) tore host Tom Snyder a new one insisting Public Image Limited was "not a baannd, it's uh company" – aside from its first three discs (especially the seminal Metal Box/Second Edition), can anyone name any "product" of this fearless corporation?
Rock music history is paved with the asphalt of failure and obscurity – in their respective eras, the now-venerated watersheds the Stooges, Nick Drake, Velvet Underground, 50 Foot Hose, Tim Buckley, and Silver Apples moved units in the teensy-weensy-est figures. But as someone in the blues field observed, "Give me the flowers while I'm living." There's stuff happening now that really challenges and enhances the concept of rock & roll in an affirmative manner, and there's no reason to wait 10 or 20 years for epiphanies of discovery. One purveyor of such is Rasputina, founded 1992.
From fabled Kansas came Melora Creager, classically-trained cellist, to New York to learn the lessons of Art. As many before her, she fell in with rock & rollers, leading to stints playing cello with Ultra Vivid Scene and Nirvana. As the Bay Area's Kronos Quartet shook up the staid mod-classical sphere, her vision of a truly alternative rock band crystallized: No guys, no guitars, no dressing like sexpots or as if they'd fallen out of a St. Vincent de Paul dollar-clothing bin. The result: Rasputina, a trio of female cellists dressed in Victorian undergarments, their axes augmented by electronics to the point of not resembling the cello's deep, woody tones. Novelty? Gimmick? In the Beatles' Cavern days, John Lennon played with a toilet seat around his neck, the Beach Boys used to wear matching striped shirts onstage, and John Cale sometimes wore a hockey mask while performing – yet their music stands time's test. As long as sounds have substance, what's a little theatricality?
Rasputina recorded for the Columbia and Instinct Records labels. Then taking matters into her own hands, Creager established the Filthy Bonnet Recording Co, releasing A Radical Recital in 2005 and this year's Oh Perilous World (on which they count amongst their membership their first male member, drummer Jonathon Tebeest). Inspired by the real world, "sampling" texts from Internet news for her harrowing lyrics, OPH sounds like punk rock Brecht & Weil (the team behind "A Threepenny Opera") voiced by Kate Bush's bratty younger sister, driven by the wry pop smarts of pre-Discovery Electric Light Orchestra, the brash urgency of Metallica, and the pugnacious whimsy of Pere Ubu. Arty, thorny, precious, heartfelt, and utterly unlike nearly any other "rock" in the marketplace, indie, alt, or otherwise…and you gotta hear how Ms. MC frames the line, "Quite unbelievably I want someone to be sweet to me when I am in absolutely horrible pain." -Mark Keresman/Phoenix New Times

Where were you, child, when Mary Todd Lincoln launched her blimp-army attack against the blighters of Pitcairn Island? You'll ken that skirmish anew as Brooklyn stringfelons Rasputina strain their raiment unleashing Oh Perilous World!, the trio's sixth album. The twisted historical saga, as wailed, bowed, thrummed, and thumped by Melora Creager, Jonathon TeBeest, and Sarah Bowman, rocks hard enough to cure rheumatic fever.– Wayne Alan Brenner/Austin Chronicle 7/26

A haunting voice and rock music driven by strings create the unique sound that is Rasputina. Born out of vocalist/cellist Melora Creager's desire to take the path less traveled out of the classical music world, Rasputina stands out because of its refusal to follow any preset trend. Formed through a want ad Creager placed in 1992, the group has gone through line-up changes over the years, and Rasputina's first male member, drummer Jonathan TeBeest, was added in 2003. Just because their instruments require them to stay seated, don't expect a stationary show - Rasputina relies on elaborate costumes and their extensive classical training to produce an entertaining and unusual blend of rock, pop and classical music. Caye Burry/Cleveland Free Times 8/1
If you’ve grown weary of bands that dress onstage in the same boring t-shirt and jeans ensemble, try the classical trappings of Rasputina on for size. The venerable, self-described "chamber rock trio," based in Brooklyn, New York, today releases its sixth full- length album, Oh Perilous World, on Filthy Bonnet Records.
As part of the recent boom in concept albums, Oh Perilous World presents an alternative history inspired by singer/lead cellist Melora Creager’s reading of daily world events over the past two years. The moral doublespeak of the Bush era ought to be familiar to members of Rasputina, who perform in corsets and are passionate students of the notoriously hypocritical Victorian age. Since the band’s formation in 1992, cited jokingly as 1891, and throughout its multiple incarnations since then, its music has been informed by founder Creager’s obsessions with real historical events and people, like Howard Hughes and Rosemary Kennedy.
So, the concept of Oh Perilous World finds Mary Todd Lincoln representing the United States as the Queen of Florida, who sends her blimp armies to attack Pitcairn Island, symbolic of the Middle East, where Fletcher Christian's son Thursday leads a rebellion. Don’t be baffled by the plot. Just be grateful this is not an actual scenario that Condi Rice has had to confront.
Rasputina plays a blend of classical cello music and rock, and Oh Perilous World is at its best when the latter element roars front and center. Kansas transplant Creager, after all, did once open for the Throwing Muses and the Pixies, and she supported Nirvana on the European leg of the In Utero tour, including their final show in Munich. Accordingly, she and Rasputina excel on the new album’s noisier tracks, like “Choose Me for Champion,” and “Draconian Crackdown,” which allow waves of rock to crash through and foam with the cellos in a delightful ocean of noise. Also noteworthy is the tune, “Oh Bring Back the Egg Unbroken,” with its sexy, swaggering tempo and call-response vocals that echo the early 1960s Girl Group sound.
Say, Rasputina shows that history can be fun. Watch their cover of Heart’s “Barricuda,” its own kind of blast from the past, to see the proof. Or, better yet, catch Rasputina on their U.S. tour this July and August, with appearances by Jana Hunter and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond. Julie Bolcer/NewNowNext.com 6/26

Melora Creager sets the stage for Rasputina’s sixth album, Oh Perilous World, in the distant past with a sigh of “In the spring of 1315, there began an era of unpredictable weather” that did not lift until 1851.
In 1816, for example, a year she believes you’ll remember as the year without a summer, a sudden snowstorm blankets all the countryside in June.
“So Mary Shelley had to stay inside and she wrote Frankenstein,” she sings. “Oh 1816 was the year without a summer.”
It’s a natural topic for Creager, whose cello-fueled chamber-goth trio has often looked for inspiration to the distant past.
What’s more unusual is the number of songs Oh Perilous World inspired by current events, from the war in Fallujah to African children’s armies. There’s even a speech by Osama Bin-Laden.
Having decided the state of the world at the moment was more bizarre than anything she could possibly dig up in history books, she wrote the album while obsessively devouring daily news on the Internet, copying words, phrases and whole stories into a notebook.
But the end result is more surreal than any protest album, an allegory addressing the state of the world through cryptic references to Frankenstein, a vast freemason conspiracy, Mary Todd Lincoln, a shipwreck, an army of blimps and the “weird descendents” of the Bounty mutineers. It’s not always easy to follow, but it does reward repeated listening, both musically and lyrically. Ed Masley/Arizona Republic 7/18

- Various


Thanks For The Ether (Sony) 1996
How We Quit The Forest (Sony) 1998
Cabin Fever! (Instinct) 2002
Frustration Plantation (Instinct) 2004
A Radical Recital (Filthy Bonnet) 2005
Oh Perilous World (Filthy Bonnet) 2007



Raputina: Oh Perilous World

Oh Perilous World, the sixth full length album from chamber-rock trio Rasputina, was performed by the band’s creator cellist/lead singer Melora Creager and drummer Jonathon TeBeest with second chair Sarah Bowman contributing additional vocals. The album will be released this Summer by the Filthy Bonnet Recording Co.with distribution through Ryko.

Creager wrote the songs featured on Oh Perilous World over the last two years after deciding current world events were more bizarre than anything she could scrounge up from the distant past. She obsessively read daily news on the Internet, copying words, phrases and whole stories that especially intrigued her. She compiled a vast notebook of this material from which the Oh Perilous World lyrics are culled. "Champion" is mostly the translation of an Osama Bin-Laden speech; "Child Soldier" references the phenomenon of African children's armies; "In Old Yellowcake" utilizes imagery of the destruction of Fallujah. This is coupled with the albums overall narrative of Mary Todd Lincoln as Queen of Florida, with her blimp armies having attacked Pitcairn Island, where Fletcher Christian's son Thursday emerges as a resistance icon, before the record’s grand end and subsequent denouement. The songs were recorded primarily with cello and drums, but despite this simple palette Rasputina create a wide range of textures and affects, including what seems to be electric guitars and violins – but is actually cunningly played and recorded cello.

Born and raised in Kansas, Creager comes from a musical family and received classical training. At 18 she moved to New York City to attend Parsons School of Design. While majoring in photography she began playing her cello in rock bands and became involved with drag performers. She formed “The Fingerlakes Trio,” a falsely geeky classical group that performed covers of disco hits, before joining NYC’s Ultra Vivid Scene who recorded three albums for cult British label, 4AD. It was her first exposure to the professional rock world - UVS opened for label mates like The Pixies, Belly and Throwing Muses. Following a tour with Nirvana as a cellist on their In Utero tour she desired to do a project of her own, and she created Rasputina.

The concept for the group came to her fully formed; the idea was written as a manifesto. Her intention was to create an electric cello choir - no boys or guitars allowed. Through want ads she recruited like-minded young cellists. Rasputina evolved, employing elaborate costuming, as they were unable to move about while forcibly stationary in their chairs. What began as strictly "Victorian Whites"- bloomers, corsets and hoopskirts, has evolved into an amalgam of historical feminine icons- Indian princesses, Hawaiian handmaidens and fallen medieval queens, Rasputina keeps their cultish following enthralled with intimate recitals and post-show receiving lines.

Rasputina works as an anomaly in popular music. By ignoring fashion trends and maintaining artistic integrity coupled with musical enthusiasm, the group has thrived as time has passed. They expose passionate fans to historical tales, and inspire young string players to seek alternatives to the classical world.

Rasputina have released two albums on Columbia Records, Thanks For the Ether and How We Quit the Forest. Following a short break after the birth of Melora’s daughter Hollis, the group returned with two more studio albums on Instinct Records, Cabin Fever, and Frustration Plantation. The live CD A Radical Recital was released in 2005 on Creager’s own Filthy Bonnet Recording Co. record label.

Oh Perilous World was co-produced by Melora Creager and Charlie Campbell (who mixed the live A Radical Recital), mixed by Dae Bennett and recorded at the Clubhouse in Rhinebeck and Soundcheck Republic in Chatham near Melora’s new home in New York State’s Hudson Valley.

For more information visit www.rasputina.com

Track listing:
1816, The Year Without A Summer
Choose Me For Champioin
Cage In A Cave
Incident in a Medical Clinic
Draconian Crackdown
Child Soldier Rebellion
Oh Bring Back the Egg Unbroken
Old Yellowcake Breaking News
In Old Yellowcake
We Stay Behind
A Retinue of Moons/The Infidel is Me
The Pruning