Give CocoRosie credit for continuing to get their strange on. Whether you prefer their earlier, lo-fi work like their 2004 debut, La Maison de Mon Reve
, or their more recent forays into a broader sonic landscape, sisters Bianca and Sierra Casady continue to turn out music that sounds like nothing else.
On their new album, Grey Oceans
, CocoRosie have cast aside the clatter. Everything here is well-played and produced. Gone are the sloppily executed guitars and random barnyard noises. They are replaced by fat synthesizer pads, lush piano and a tighter rhythm section. Despite the surface sheen, there are no concessions to commerciality here. The girls aren't in danger of getting big royalty checks anytime soon. Their aesthetic has very little to do with songs and everything to do with atmosphere and suspension of disbelief. Either you're going to go with the Casadys and their band of transgender gypsies on their pirate ship to interior fantasyland, or you're not. No one could blame you if you were not willing to take the journey.
The Dave Sitek produced "Lemonade" showcases CocoRosie's range. Part sepia-toned show tune, "Shot a rabbit from the backseat window/Sat and watched the Summer corn grow/Ate ice-cream in a desert dream.." part primal family nightmare, this song captures vivid images of childhood. The lengths to which daughters will go to make things right, despite knowing unconsciously that they can't be made right, are perfectly captured by the lines "We climbed the rocks in snow and rain/In search of magic powers/To heal our mothers pain."
Continuing to mine their shared past, the spooky stunner, "Undertaker" features squeaky strings, bass clarinet, piano, the remembered sound of rewound tape and apparently an old recording of their mother chanting in Cherokee.
Occasionally, the poetry can get a bit too colorful, "Bloody rose in my cheek/Purple kiss of stardust/Pink balloon of time.." Also, their explorations into the world of hip-hop tend to amuse rather than drive you to the dance floor. With rhymes like "I'm afraid of sharks but not the dark," in "Smokey Taboo," Bianca won't be challenging Kanye for the crown. But these songs do serve a purpose, lightening the dark and somber mood, bringing a bit more bounce to the proceedings.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss a bit of the old grime. There isn't a note out of place on Grey Oceans
, but why should CocoRosie limit themselves if they can successfully navigate these deep waters? Some artists are lo-fi because that's what they want to be and some only because it's what they can afford when they first start out. They'd do well, as they move forward, to reign in the prog-rock tendencies of their collaborators, ease up on the Enigma-ish opera rock and find some better beats, but these are small concerns. As they write of their aims: "If perhaps we may capture, just a bit of the flowers laughter and retell it all to you, then the sky might turn from grey torrent tangles into a tranquil silk trouser of a seafarer, blue." We should accept their offering, even if we're not exactly sure what it is. -dan siegler
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MP3: "Lemonade" (Grey Oceans)
CocoRosie on Myspace