Sierra and Bianca Casady, two sisters who together make up CocoRosie, were born and grew up apart, only reuniting in 2003. They collaborated and released their debut album La Maison de Mon Reve almost immediately and have since been carving a niche on the far left, experimental side of the nu-folk movement.
The Casady sisters’ follow-up, Noah’s Ark, is a Marmite album. There are those who will detest its experimentalist music, and those who will love its inventive fusion.
CocoRosie’s music is easily as unconventional as the sisters’ background. This is a record that fuses together glocks, cats, operatic soprano, beatboxes, a French rapper, whinnying horses, phones, detuned honky-tonk pianos and electronic beepings, recorded in a range of ways. Some of it sounds like it was laid down in a studio, some in a field, some dredged up from a 1930s music hall (Armageddon’s introduction). It comes across like Virginia Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness writing in musical form.
Somewhere in the mix are the nu-folk scene stalwarts as guest stars. Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons appears to warble at us about Beautiful Boys on the extraordinary track of the same name, while Devendra Banhart‘s presence is also noted.
But the sisters have such unique contributions of their own to make that Noah’s Ark never seems to need guest star bolstering. And their work is often surprising. Tekno Love Song is anything but a dance track; it sounds like a scratchy old gramophone record recovered from an attic. And while any bedroom recording package has distortion effects that will produce such a sound, rarely can it have been executed with such confidence.
Taken overall, Noah’s Ark has a dreamlike quality to it. It could soundtrack blissful visions (South 2nd) and nightmares (Bear Hides And Buffalo – on which the soprano voice comes very close to sounding like a saw amid all the half-demented animals). Just occasionally it breaks out into relatively conventional songwriting (the title track is almost hummable).
Certainly not an album to dance to or to play at parties, Noah’s Ark is rather bedroom listening. Just be prepared to be transported outside of your duvet to a strange, unsettling and extraordinary place.