Rasputina

It's been a long time since Rasputina rocked and rolled--though not as long as its Victorian-era costumes might imply. But even after a lengthy hiatus, the all-female trio's hard-corset blend of gothic imagery, black humor, stark strings and curiously modern industrial effects still seems fresh and charming.

Never lapsing into Renaissance festival-style self-parody, Rasputina jousts with state fairs, describes Bolivian rodents of unusual sizes and sends PJ Harvey and Björk on a repulsive celebrity double-date on its latest, Cabin Fever. Musically, though, Rasputina keeps a straight face. Melora Creager's far-ranging upper-octave vocals convey despair without a wink, and, as they do on classic horror-film scores, the cellos create unease and saw into frazzled nerves. Violently shifting the mood, Rasputina follows upbeat industrial crunch with wounded whispers. It lures a psychedelic tone from a dulcimer, drives swirling cinematic racket over the top with piercing wails and drowns bewitching harmonies with distorted noise to see if they'll float back to the surface. Even after giving the rest of the black-clad pack four years to catch up--or more than a century, if its wardrobe is to be believed--Rasputina still sounds like nothing else.

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Andrew Miller