Grey Oceans: Excessive, brilliant and avant-garde

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailby feather

Artist: CocoRosie
Album: Grey Oceans
Hometown: Paris
Label: Sub Pop
Score: 6.8/10

Coco Rosie has always been about the experience for me. They are about the experience of listening to a band’s album, trying to get to know that band and its  sound and then hearing its next release and starting the whole process over again. I fell in love with La Maison De Mon Rev, felt lackluster for The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn and I kind of forget to care about Noah’s Ark. Through it all, I remained  intrigued by what CocoRosie create. And even though their approach can at times feel over-wrought and heady, there is a mystique about them I just can’t shake.

“Trinity’s Crying,” the starter on Grey Oceans, enters with ethereal bonging notes, similar to a marimba or deep bodied acoustic guitar. Creepily serene vocals follow, with two voices lilting around each other carefully, trailed by tinkling piano notes and minimalist beats. It’s sad and curious and lays down the perfect mood for the ensuing tracks. “Smokey Taboo” follows with single beat tribal drums, wooden flute and the entrance of the quintessential CocoRosie voice: it is nasally and quirky, childlike singing in a delectable rhythm that burrows right into your brain.

Grey Oceans has a really solid and consistent sound. It borrows heavily from world instrumentation, moody electronics and a good bit of dancehall and dub step. Somehow CocoRosie’s sibling duo of Sierra and Bianca Cassady meld vaudevillian piano music with toy squeaks and trip-hopesque backbeats into something far greater than its parts. “Undertaker” in particular is laden with a Native American-inspired breathy, wavering vocal style and an insatiable tribal drum beat. Bianca and Sierra’s mother actually lends guest vocals on that track in her native Cherokee and that addition adds a depth and eccentricity that is right at home with CocoRosie’s sound.

“R.I.P Burn Face”, wistful and delicate at times, takes notes from the dub step world, as does “Hopscotch”, which has a piano that tinkles along and bumps fancies with the serious drum ‘n bass beats that back Sierra’s delicate vocals. The this-way/that-way aesthetic of “Hopscotch” is a direct and telling link to what CocoRosie is all about: fierce creativity and exploration tempered with a dash of clinky kiddo instruments and variegated vocal funny business.

Elsewhere on Grey Oceans “Gallows” haunts. A cat squeals and a harp creaks out notes as a blustery wind whips through the track. There’s a drama to this song, a dark foreboding that pushes on through every musical sentence, lolling into “Fairy Paradise,” the album’s next track. The song finds the sisters singing over glitchy danceclub beats that rise hard and then fall quietly. The more electronica-heavy offerings on Grey Oceans are begging to be remixed into sweaty hipster dance tracks. By the end of the year, don’t be surprised to see the album’s finer moments sampled on other artist’s tracks.

It all sounds so fairytale-ish, as if these sisters exist in the Bavarian woodlands, frolic among Smurfs and make music with unicorns. They’re quirky, and sometimes it is seemingly being quirky for the sake of the quirk. But their intentions are far more complicated. The Casady sisters succeed in making baroque folk pop-tronica in an ostentatious, but entirely respectable way. They explore and create, and don’t box themselves into those tiny, tiny places we like to use to section off our world. While fanciful, and some may say self-indulgent, CocoRosie are just being themselves. They’re weird and avant-garde in some ways, excessive and superfluous in others, but always oh so brilliant.

Shrie Spangler

About Shrie Spangler

Shrie is a true Texan taking a break from the sticky weather and even stickier conservatives while livin' it up here in Seattle. She crafts like the wind and fancies herself a web writer and blogger. You can usually find her at the dog park with her pit bull/catahoula Leopard dog mix and her Chesapeake Bay Retirever/husky mix, at super divey blue collar karaoke bars or loitering on her Columbia City street with the uber-friendly neighbors. Oh yeah... and she really digs writing about independent music.