Oh Perilous World CD
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Oh Perilous World
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Melora has maintained the Rasputina group for almost 20(0) years. Genres come and go and Rasputina often gets mistakenly lumped into passing fancies, but Rasputina manages to survive and defy categorization by maintaining a child-like delight in music-making alongside a clear & true integrity. Since 2007's Oh Perilous World), Melora has released a number of limited edition short-works: Melora a la Basilica (live duets w/Daniel De Jesus), The Willow Tree Tryptich (3 ancient folk songs titled The Willow Tree), Ancient Cross-Dressing Songs (self-explanatory), and The Pregnant Concert (a full live show from September 2009). Melora grew up in Kansas in a musical family which did play together as an ensemble, though certainly not publicly. At 18 she moved to NYC where she studied photography at Parsons School of Design. While there, she began playing the cello with drag performers and eventually the 4AD band, Ultra Vivid Scene. That exposure to the glamorous world of professional rock music led her to begin Rasputina. She thought it would be easy. Touring as Nirvana's cellist taught her lessons in avoidance of immense fame, which she has successfully practised since.
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And it would be, if Rasputina weren't such great musicians, who could mingle tragic history stories with quirky chamberpop and classical instrumentation. And their latest album "Oh Perilous World" comfortably straddles the fence between rock and cabaret, and seems to be having fun while it does so.
It opens with a creepy, ominous cello melody, and Melora Creager's girlish voice telling us solemnly, "In the spring of 1315/There began an era of unpredictable weather/It did not lift until 1851/You remember 1816 as the year without a summer." It's a rambling, weird song about Freemasons, Ben Franklin, Frankenstein, volcanoes and other such subjects.
Things get even stranger with the quirky chamber-rocker that follows ("choose me to be your champion/I am possessing of a very righteous style!"), not to mention the string of melodies that follow: clashing cellopop, gothic balladry, a rapid-fire rocker, a tinkly pop song, rambling interludes, and the sweeping beauty of "Old Yellowcake" and the sly "A Retinue Of Moons/The Infidel Is Me."
Rasputina is one of those genrebusting bands -- they manage to keep themselves rooted in rock, pop, chamber music, and still sound like they live in a big old ruined Victorian house with some friendly ghosts and a lot of newspapers. They're a little bit of everything, and have kept their quirk.
Obviously the main instrument here is cello. Lots of cello. And Creager knows how to mold it to her purpose, whether it's a melodious sweep, an awkward twang, or urgent dark chords like an electric guitar. But to keep it from getting monotonous, there's some fuzzy guitar in "Draconian Crackdown" that takes over the song, as well as a gentle piano in the ballads, and a jingle of bells here and there.
Creager has a pretty, girlish voice, but she sings some pretty weird, sometimes gruesome songs about broken butterflies, blood-spattered lace curtains and the descendants of mutineers. Some are taken from actual history. And how can you ignore lyrics so quirky as to tell you that a reaper is inthe flowerbed? Or that "I have charisma and of course a winning smile/I stand accused of being an audacious redeemer/Not a charge I can deny."
Full of history and dark humor, "Oh Perilous World" is a pretty solid chamber-rock album that has its moments of excellence. Definitely worth hearing, if nothing else for its cello playing.
But if the thought of chamber music meeting prog-rock is your thing, Oh Perilous World provides a marvellous journey. Numerous nods to history are encompassed within the witty lyrics. I love it.
I became aware of Rasputina via a link from a follower on Twitter. Explored on YouTube, and now buying the CDs. I thank them.
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I've been a Zoe Keating fan for a year or so, and was introduced to her through her work with Amanda Palmer. It was a natural progression to see what other work Zoe had done; although she didn't work on this particular album (see: Frustration Plantation), I figured it was a safe bet that stylistically, there were commonalities. There are similarities in straight up bow-on-string style, but not major ones--Melora is her own creature.
This is a hard album to nail down in words. It's quirky, but not cheesy. It's smart, but not pretentious. It's clever and self-aware, but not distractingly so. It's playful and somber at the same time. It has the solidity and timbre of a musician who is unflinching in her vision or ability to carry that vision out. This album leaves no doubt that she really is an artistic force.
It has cellos on overdrive pedals. It has a dulcimers and percussion implements. The instrumentation is relatively simple yet beautifully layered, as is the narrative thread that ties all of the story-songs together. It has contagious hooks (Draconian Crackdown, 1816) and solid pieces that, if there were justice and taste in the world, should have gotten regular radio play (In Old Yellowcake).
All told, great album. I'll keep exploring their catalog, and hope the rest is as well done.
I would recommend this CD to anyone who wants a unique music experience. I can't compare it to there other CD's yet, but it is very good on it's own.