Rainer Maria | Catastrophe Keeps Us Together (Grunion)

The songs on this album, for the most part, shine and reaffirm the label of lit-rock the band has gladly worn throughout the years. The album seesaws between love and loss with offerings of sadness and redemption throughout.

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Three years is an eternity for a band to wait to release a new album. Rainer Maria’s last release, Long Knives Drawn, was a supple album that showed the three-piece blossoming, their rough edges replaced with nuance. The newly released Catastrophe Keeps Us Together proves to be worth the wait.

Five albums and ten years of togetherness have not dulled the band. Now signed to Grunion Records (the new label from the management company Q Prime, the same people who rep Shania Twain and Metallica), the talented band features drummer William Kuenhn and drummer Kyle Fischer providing sharp, tight accompaniment for Caithlin De Marrais’ bass and ever-improving vocal talents. Rainer Maria was a good pick for the fledgling label, as the songs on this album, for the most part, shine and reaffirm the label of lit-rock the band has gladly worn throughout the years.

The album seesaws between love and loss with offerings of sadness and redemption throughout. “Burn” offers the most biting comments about matters of the heart, including the admission, “I could have set you free, but I watched you burn.” The lovely “Clear and True” is a beautiful song about loss (innocence? life? both?), offering a vibrancy that makes you feel you are with the children running through gravestones. “The day we played as kids among the headstones/we pretended we had died/But now something’s changed/We don’t play games and time has proved you right/I know you’re here and I’m not afraid of ghosts.”

Deserving credit along with the band is producer Malcolm Burn (Bob Dylan, Patti Smith), who took them into his Maison Bleue studio in upstate New York. Burn brought further structure to a band that already had a unique sound. He also helped to give De Marrais a stronger, more distinct voice, then placed that voice on a more evocative soundscape. When she sings whole-heartedly on track four, the ebullient “Bottle,” you have no doubt that this is a woman in love. The swirl of the music with pianos floating in the background and sonic guitar make the band sound more alive than ever. This is made all the more impressive by the fact that De Marrais is no belter of songs; she is, like superb liquor, best when not rushed. Never was this more obvious than on the Dylan song “I’ll Keep It With Mine,” which closes the album. The song, most famously performed by Nico, is captured perfectly by De Marrais. She accomplishes this not by impersonation, but by empathy. Her voice, like the German chanteuse before her, has a lot of heart.

 

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