Thursday, March 26, 2009

lay her down in her gingerbread coffin

Maurice Sendak in live action...Will it work? Your guess is as good as mine.

And Spencer puts it all together in a song--lolcats, MMOs, Second Life, the weirdness of the net, and some somewhat-familiar characters.

For bots? Against bots? There's a wonderful discussion on the topic on the SL blog, but this is the single most logical reply.

She's absolutely right, too, though I would miss lucky chairs keenly. Sometimes when I am impoverished for Lindens, Lucky Chair offerings are how I get new outfits, plain and simple!

At any rate, my meandering musical attention finally wanders to Rasputina.

Rasputina. They don't sound like anyone else. If I had to invent a description of their sound, imagine if Tori Amos and Emilie Autumn were handed some fun mood enhancers, and went out dancing at a gothic club in Prague to chamber music.

Rasputina? Would be the soundtrack for that night.


Melora Creager, the heart and soul of Rasputina, formed the group as a sort of rallying cry to the industry--an "electric cello choir" intended to foster sound without synthesizers, no boys or guitars need apply (though the group has since changed their goal, with the addition of Jonathon TeBeest on drums).

The first song I ever heard of Rasputina captured me utterly: "Transylvanian Concubine":

You know what flows here like wine.
Stay here with us, it's just time.
Transylvanian Concubine.
Sorrow is their master
Cackling with laughter

It was quirky, demented, and deeper than I expected in spots, once I got past the feel of the chords to the meaning in the words.

There's a great description out there of what's happening on their latest album, Oh Perilous World, but they've had nine albums total; they've been recording for more than a decade at this point.


(The current line-up of Rasputina, which includes Creager, left, TeBeest, center, and I believe Sarah Bowman, right. Also give a listen to Rasputina performing "In Old Yellowcake" live in Baltimore.)

Inside of a room is a cage, is a cage.
It's made out of chain and glass.
It's about forty feet high and three feet wide,
and it was built to last.

And, like many musicians before them, they have a MySpace page.

Their first album, Thanks for the Ether, made a minor splash to all fans of instrumentation over electronica. They have developed as a group who records covers, but records the originals over in strange and lovely ways, the familiar distorted through strings and laudanum. And they have their own songs, as well, they're not simply an orchestral cover band. They're so much more than that.

They've opened on tour for everyone from Marilyn Manson to Bob Mould, and Creager was the cellist hired to accompany Nirvana on their In Utero tour. Their second album, How We Quit the Forest, was an album produced by Chris Vrenna. (You might remember him from his steampunk contributions on the Alice game soundtrack.)

To me, they're another touchstone band, on what "steampunk music" might sound like, given space and time to develop on its own. All I can say is, listen to them, go to YouTube, go to their own web page, download their current offerings, listen to their MySpace songs--you may not become a fan, but at the very least you'll be listening to music created by a group of very original, highly unique musicians.

Their latest album, Oh Perilous World, delves into such highly discordant things as the ongoing war in Iraq and the assassination of Lincoln:

"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 [album's] 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."

That's from the band's history page, on their site, but come on--how often do you get armed children, Mary Todd Lincoln, blimps and Osama bin Laden mentioned in song, let alone featured on an entire album??

Rasputina, for me, makes the cut, with no doubt in my mind. For Gingerbread Coffin, if for no other reason, they're in:

We found an old doll that was out in the grass,
She had special powers, we said a Black Mass.
We sat in a circle all holding hands. The
doll-bed held together with old rubberbands--

Like no one else, and fitting no one genre at any point in their musical exploration. Unique and individual, definitely not mass-marketed, mass-produced.

And isn't that part of what steampunk is all about?


Edward Pearse, Duke of Argylle said...

LOVE the Good Morning Internets song. Funny.

As for Rasputina: YES!!!!

I used to play their stuff at goth clubs but they were one of those groups that had found a sound of their own and were quite content to be themselves. They weren't trying to jump onto an Industrial or a prog-rock bandwagon or become another cookie-cutter grrl-power group.

Love them long time.

Emilly Orr said...

That, and I among other fans never thought their "no boys, no guitars" stance would ever loosen--but when it did (on the boys, not the guitars), they found an amazing drummer in Jon TeBeest.