CocoRosie
The Adventures of Ghosthorse & Stillborn
2007
C+



it was inevitable that Sierra and Bianca Casady, the sisters of CocoRosie, bought some courage and swallowed the gulp that comes from crossing over from cheap tape recorder to shiny microphone. The first result of this move, track one, is a peculiar hybrid of Patrick Wolf, Björk, and gosh, I don’t know, t.a.T.u. What is most frightening about this combination, if not the sounds the three names conjure, is the weird dream-rap video game interlude that warrants my making such a strange triumvirate reference. And it happens not once but twice—consecutively. Songs one and two are traditionally we’re ba-ack tracks, but they’re also announcing that these two would-be Tim Burton sisters can move with the times like the most ho-hum members of the vicious indie circle.

There is the sense that this makeover is supposed to be a consolation to those who live in a limbo where radios don’t play. But this limbo operates at a frequency at which CocoRosie cannot be heard, except by those dear, doe-eyed, Crayola-using fans who don’t mind that their fave band’s website takes two minutes to load purposely stunted drawings of scary masks. That virtual realm points to a telling union of the technological with the primordial: more than ever the Casadys are straddling iPod and Fisher Price, AM and mp3 blog, folk and pop, reggae and trip-hop. Yes, reggae. “Japan” and its slow, clap-happy mantra, “Everybody wants to go to Japan,” and later, “Everybody just hold hands,” takes advantage of Bianca’s opera training, as does a later track, “Houses.” “Japan” is mostly a blindsiding diversion that one can only hope is tongue-in-cheek. Thankfully, it breaks for a confusing yet refreshing coda: a lugubrious aria backed by full-bodied wall-of-sound orchestration.

The clear, crisp production and epic atmospheres are a huge departure from the sisters’ previous two albums, and show shades of Bianca’s work in the minimalist, spellbinding side project Metallic Falcons. But otherwise things are ridiculously the same: still a lot of little-kid vocals, little-kid sound effects, and an opening track that is scarily reminiscent of Lisa Stansfield (easy drum-machined beats + creepy lascivious ’90s kazoo made up to sound like a saxophone = one big WTF). As far as cross-genre experimentation goes, Adventures isn’t Madonna-Ray-of-Light bad, but it will run circles round the most open of minds. It’s a pretty little identity crisis, though it does afford the listener, and assumedly the creators, some pleasure.

Bringing in heart-beating drum machines and resonating melodies for the first time, Adventures can’t be all bad. For “Werewolf,” a father story, imagine a Newsom narrative translated candidly: gone are the metaphors, replaced instead by easier similes, a rain of swishing drums and a piano loop atop a hill. Playing with detuned pianos on “Houses,” where the opera singing returns, is the closest the sisters get to mature elegance. So much of the hammocky interludes and percussive diddling elsewhere reeks of the new, the nubile, the novitiate still glaring in the pair. On “Raphael,” where Newsom’s vocal delivery of choice returns along with a harp, the whole picture becomes indicative of the group’s youth, not in the world but certainly in music. They’re not traveling down a road toward negligible tunes, but perhaps walking backward from the fork they’ve arrived at would be useful.



Reviewed by: Liz Colville
Reviewed on: 2007-04-13
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