Rasputina's 1996 debut, Thanks for the Ether is a rare accomplishment. The Columbia release has a depth and playful creepiness just barely reminiscent of Kate Bush and the Beatles, but the record really has no sonic predecessor. The three cellos of "band" leader Melora Creager, Julia Kent, and Carpella Parvo make up almost the entire musical accompaniment for Creager's vocals, creating a subtle, weary soundscape that's perfectly in tune with the singer's diaphanous voice and cutesy-cruel thematics. With their strange goth-pop instrumentation and corseted image, Rasputina have all the trappings of novelty, but Creager proves herself a supremely talented songwriter and lyricist throughout Thanks for the Ether. Highlights include the spoken word "Nozzle" and "Transylvanian Concubine" with its rich, distorted basslines. Rasputina's pronounced concept never becomes corny or pretentious as Creager deftly mixes her sharp wit into her sometimes-gothic, sometimes-everyday tales of perplexed existence. If only more mope rockers, shoegazers, death metalers, and other dour stylists could be so clever, their music would become many times more listenable. Creager is no cutup, she keeps on message, insuring Thanks for the Ether is never fundamentally comedic or even ironic. But a little sick humor can go a long way. Rasputina paint a completely new gothic landscape on this debut, and fans of the genre or anything dark and artful simply must own it.