Rasputina RasputinaSister Kinderhook
It would be disconcerting to find out, at this stage of the game, that the comic-book character Rasputin (who looks just like the real-life person by the same name) , created by Hugo Pratt as part of the Corto Maltese sagas, had a daughter like Melora Creager (we could also call her Matryona Grigorievna Rasputina, the real daughter of the real Rasputin). We would probably see a feminist character opposed to her father’s misogyny and drug-addicted need to kill. And Hugo Pratt would have probably made Rasputina both a fighter and ethereal at the same time, bewitching (on an almost animal level), adventuresome, exotic, and characterised by frank, painful dialogue. And in spite of everything, this comic-book Rasputina would never have fallen into easy stereotypes. Needless to say, Melora Creager doesn’t do that either. The leader of Rasputina, the band in love with the Victorian period (and its clothing and historical events, including the wars), has played the cello since she was nine years old, receiving classical training, and also designs her own jewellery professionally. She started the band (in which the cellists had always been women until the incorporation of Daniel Dejesus), and later they discovered that they had all gone to exactly the same nursery school as children. Creager has played in, opened for and accompanied live bands as disparate as (take a deep breath now) Nirvana, Ultra Vivid Scene, Screaming Trees, Pixies, Marilyn Manson and Belle & Sebastian. “Sister Kinderhook” is the band’s sixth studio work, and they have put out three live albums. And what do they do? Well, they take 17th Century history books and gather inspiration from British annexations, various colonisations, in-between wars, and pre-American, pre-Coca Cola ways of life. That’s right.
During Rasputina’s concerts, don’t be surprised if you don’t find the guitars: their “rock” is very close to that of Edison Woods and Rachel’s. A handful of cellists (remember that the list of cellists is more feminine than Miranda Kerr) dressed up in period costumes telling stories of yesteryear, whether they are pure Americana ( “The 2 Miss Leavens”, dark, with cellos tracing rhythms and trembling choruses), or a fairy tale with wild, untamed children in the starring role ( “Snow-Hen of Austerlitz”, one of the simplest, most delicately-produced songs). They even speak plainly of the Helderberg war of 1840 (in “Calico Indians”), the war of social protest that New York farmers waged against semi-feudal laws for the renting of their land. There is no fear. There is no stage fright. There are no complexes for Rasputina when it comes to talking about the past. Let’s try to see the work as a whole: a handful of wailing, occasionally terrifying cellos (in “Sweet Sister Temperance”), generalised nudity covered cleanly and worthily with choruses in the final minutes (for example, in “Afternoon of the Faun”) and almost always what Nina Nastasia would have had to offer with competent orchestration at her side (something noticeable in “Humankind, as the Sailor”).
All the prejudiced people raise your hands, please. This is neither a feminist nor a social stereotype album. It just so happens that during the Victorian period, the industrial revolution and the advance in fundamental rights didn’t prevent the coexistence of high and low classes within the population, that workers and women, for example, subsisted as best they could. In “Kinderhook Hoopskirt Works”, beautiful production hides a history of labour exploitation and other sordid activities, and workers’ psychological reactions. The atmosphere of Rasputina’s latest work is sincere and engaging. There are many emotional chiaroscuros. In “This, My Porcelain Life”, the play of voices and piano ends up creating a feeling that ranges from frightened depression to timid hope. We think that we see unshaven human faces and young working-class women with a shine of hope in their eyes in “Utopian Society”. And best of all: the album also includes experiments like the instrumental piece “Olde Dance”, the country air of “My Night Sky”, and, leaving behind the 1800 themes, the possibility that giants really did exist, and that they killed each other off in a worldwide genocide that doesn’t appear in encyclopaedias (a visceral “Shadow of the Colossus”, let’s say) in the melody of “Holocaust of Giants”, which seems mainstream but later turns out to be focused with the lens of Gothic deviousness. If you failed history, this is your album. And if you passed it, well, then, you too. Jordi Guinart
Rasputina - Holocaust of Giants