Always willing to cut a little slack to practitioners of arty pretension, I was nevertheless tempted to pan the fourth and latest album by the "cello-rock" trio Rasputina. During the first couple of plays, Frustration Plantation just didn't float my boat; upon taking some time, however, to listen closely to these raw, proto-feminist, Victorian-flashback rock songs built around dueling cellos, dulcimer, drums and electronic manipulation, I found myself enamored.
Under the leadership of cellist-vocalist Melora Creager, Rasputina takes elements of music you've heard before--the carnivalesque dirges of Tom Waits, the spookier turns of Kate Bush, even the chamber pop of the Beatles--and reassembles them into something that sounds vaguely familiar but wholly new.
Throughout, Creager and Zoë Keating display an unadulterated joy in the act of coaxing from their cellos an impressive variety of sounds you might never have expected, often assisted by electronic effects. Drummer Jonathan TeBeest admirably adds big-bottomed rhythms to the proceedings.
Ever wonder what a chamber group playing a punk-rock lament during a Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill stage production would sound like? That's "If Your Kisses Can't Hold the Man You Love," and you don't hear that every day.