Rasputina: Sister Kinderhook

Rasputina‘s seventh studio album Sister Kinderhook will be released on June 15th. Led by singer-songwriter Melora Creager, Rasputina was the seminal band in what I used to call the “creepy girl genre” (that evolved into the broader demented circus genre). They’ve also been called “Steampunk,” a term usually associated with bands who marry punk-rock noise with Victorian style and science fiction or post-apolcalyptic elements. Though Rasputina’s style and lyrical narratives have always had more of a Colonial influence than a Victorian one and they make beautiful use of classical instrumentation in their arrangements. Whatever you call it, Rasputina’s music is truly unique and they continue to dazzle me.

Sister Kinderhook is said to explore “Colonial themes…Emily Dickinson, feral children and the Anti-Rent wars of 1844, not to mention the theory that giants were real, but killed each other off in a self-genocidal holocaust.” Which makes total sense to those of us already familiar with Rasputina’s wonderfully bizarre repertoire.

The opening track is one of my favorites. “Sweet Sister Temperance” has Rasputina’s signature eerie vocals and chamber folk instrumentation anchored by the deep bellow of a Melora’s cello, but there’s a nice retro pop-folk echo to the song’s recording. “My Night Sky” continues on that retro-folk theme with a tinkling acoustic melody snaking its way through the arrangement, but adds depth with lush strings and multi-tracked vocals.

But the true stunners are nestled in the middle of the album, beginning with the rhythmic sitar and percussion instrumental “Olde Dance.”

“Humankind as the Sailor” and the delicious “Calico Indians” resurrect the best elements of old school Rasputina style, but amplify the heavy bass sound of the cello. The former pretties it up with a sea chantey vocal style and the latter quakes in a crescendo of voices and strings that sounds like Siouxsie Sioux leading a chamber orchestra. Meanwhile, Melora’s creeping falsetto sounds more like Hannah Fury (big compliment) on the delicate duo “Snow Hen of Austerlitz” and “Dark February.”

The chirping birds, Appalachian pluck, and choral vocals of “Kinderhook Hoopskirt Works” and the haunting piano finale “This, My Porcelain Life” are especially astounding. The songs give the album’s end an epic feel. Most artists push their weakest tracks to the second half of the album, but Melora Creager has never been like most artists.

Time will tell if these new songs have the endurance of Rasputina classics like “Gingerbread Coffin” and “Transylvanian Concubine,” but for now I think Sister Kinderhook is Rasputina’s strongest work since 2002’s Cabin Fever (my personal favorite of their albums).

The tinny production of “Holocaust of Giants” made its frenzied, high-pitched vocals grate on my nerves at first (I so dislike digital albums), but it grew on me with subsequent listens. But don’t judge the entire album by this one track, because it doesn’t represent the whole at all. It’s simply the only mp3 I could clear to share…

Rasputina – Holocaust of Giants (mp3 removed) *

*mp3 provided by & posted w/ permission of band’s PR rep

You can hear samples of other tracks at the links below.

Buy @ Amazon

Rasputina Official Site