CocoRosie – [Album]

Monday, 17 May 2010

At this point, there's no debating that some sounds are impossible to easily qualify. That, presumably, is why some clever critic coined the term 'Freak Folk' – it's a handy catch-all term that holds artists as far flung as Devandra Banhart, Sufjan Stevens and CocoRosie; one listen to those artists reveals that none of them really has anything in common with the others, it's just convenient to stick them all in the same spot. Falling into the generic 'give it a name' game must be a terrifying prospect for any band because as soon as someone says there is a community of like-minded artists that could all be classified together, that immediately places boundaries and conventions like walls around what is conventional or permissible for an artist; suddenly they have notions of place that need upholding and will need to have answers at the ready for those questions that will come up should they tread too far outside of the box that overzealous listeners and taste-makers have built to contain them.

It must be stifling to have a genre, and CocoRosie must have thought so too. That's one plausible explanation for the sound that emanates from Grey Oceans.

To be fair, there is a comparison that could be made to qualify the experimental sounds that CocoRosie majordomos Bianca and Sierra Casady have assembled for their fourth album, and that line could be drawn to Bjork. Like Bjork has done, the Casadys have patched together an enormous number of sounds and styles using electronic music (a bit of trip hop, a bit of electronic and the smallest hint of electroclash) as the glue that binds it and come up with an installation that is both mercurial and baroque, and nigh impossible to pin down, thereby making the possibility of conventional analysis almost laughable.

Even after “Trinity's Crying” opens Grey Oceans, most listeners (including me) won't be sure just what they're in for as sort-of Asian sounding instrumental motifs, spare arrangements and almost Icelandic melody vocalizations creep out of the song and simply stand to be noticed. It's an eerie and otherworldly experience; there is no decided form here, just a disconcerting aura of statuesque, chilly beauty that comes in with no introductions or explanations, it just appears and is left for listeners to ponder. The exact same thing happens as the song fades out and “Smokey Taboo” takes its place; this time with put-on English accents (the Casadys are American) and native percussion effects, the band continues to leave more questions behind in its odd little artifacts than it does answers. The effect of the first two songs becomes a pattern as, on “Hopscotch,” a thoroughly bizarre and anachronistic skippity-pop melody gets driven nowhere at all but somehow seems cute in its burbling innocence.

This is the guiding principle on Grey Oceans. The album as a whole is sort of like the musical equivalent to a Rorschach test; it presents distinct but formless creations and then leaves them to the imagination of listeners to decide what they are or could be. Presumably like a Rorschach test too, there aren't any right or wrong answers in regards to what the songs could be; listeners will get exactly as much out of the songs as they put in, and it results will be unique to each individual that tries. If effect, patient listeners will get precisely what they want out of Grey Oceans because they'll see in it what they wish to see. It's frustrating as hell if you try to figure out the design of it or attempt to ascertain where it could be going, because the design is only as firm as what seemed like a good idea at the time to the composers and that's exactly as far as it goes. If, however, one puts no brain work into it at all, listens and allows the songs to wash over them, it can be an enjoyable, if sensory depriving, experience.



CocoRosie – "Lemonade" – Grey Oceans


Grey Oceans
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

Comments are closed.