Rasputina – Thanks for the Ether – Review


Thanks for the Ether (Columbia)
by Clarendon Lavorich

Well, well. What have we here? Three women playing cellos, wearing Victorian-age lingerie, with a smattering of percussion, you say? Rasputina. Fascinating. The interplay of three cellos on Thanks For The Ether is one of weaving, hypnotic voices, made all the more complex by the sweet voice floating over the top (with the most amazing vibrato I’ve ever heard, by the way). Both adhering to and going beyond chamber music, the melodic lines flit along side by side, evoking a melding of classical and modern music. Baroque-‘n’-Roll? Perhaps not. The sounds are at once piercing and soothing; angry, violent notes mixing with relaxing, peaceful ones. The subjects of their songs range from the merits of cannibalism (“The Donner Party”), Vlad the Impaler (“Transylvanian Concubine”), and Kate Moss (“Kate Moss”). Lyrically, the images conjured are usually vague, unclear. They call to mind words at the verge of sleep, random neural firing that still tries to cohere to rational thought, but doesn’t quite make it. “Five fleas banned together… Against all odds… To form a company” (“Five Fleas”), “You are an alien… You drive a rental car” (“Trust All-Stars”). Such word play heightens the basic sound of the cello (claimed by some to be the most sensual instrument ever created); dreamlike, otherworldly. Rich tones blend with thin, high notes. The bowing can be harsh and violent or smooth and gentle, allowing the players to bring forth the entire range of human emotion (and, when played above the bridge, inhuman emotion as well). To experience Thanks For The Ether is to find your thoughts going in new directions, to daydream and find yourself in Oz, to fall down the rabbit hole and eat the mushroom. And you just gotta love the fact that they end their album in one of the most common ways known to classical composers – the traditional vii-I (granted, there is a bonus track, a creepy song sung in Polish, but I like how the vii-I works conceptually).