Within moments of playing CocoRosie, you hear that you’re listening to someone operating on a completely different level that the rest of us. Sisters Sierra and Bianca Casady fill every bit of open space with hypnotic rhythms, painted with a wide pallet of strange instrumentations (or loops of them), and top it all off with off-kilter vocals. Some transcend the normal ability of pop vocals, thanks to Sierra’s operatic training, while Bianca’s just transcend normalcy, thanks to an almost unnerving weirdness that mixes Bjork cuteness with Tricky‘s Martina and a bunch of helium and psilocybin mushrooms.
I’m a sucker for trip-hop blowback, and Grey Oceans does contain a bunch of comparisons that will have you loading those old Massive Attack albums to your iPod. But Grey Oceans is more than a nostalgic trip for chill-out thirtysomethings, it’s a beautiful mess of two sisters’ overreaching imaginations that can be equally brilliant and woefully cluttered at the same time.
Take “Lemonade” which uses a dreamy sputter of rhythms and angelic backing vocals for the melody before breaking into an almost monophonic chorus that’s straight out of your granddad’s Edsel radio speaker.
It’s a nifty effect and one of Grey Oceans‘ best moments, but when a similar approach is used for “Hopscotch,” it becomes almost strangely claustrophobic when the two throw nearly everything into the song—even some crazy, Shirley Temple-kind of chorus that sounds straight off the Goodship Lollypop.
The very next song sounds like a Japanese song of love lost, as sung through an old Victrola. By the final verse, they’ve added a tom-tom beat which gives the song an almost Native American feel.
Yes, Grey Oceans is that kind of album, full of promise and frustration. Personally, I find it all curiously appealing, but I have a strong suspicion that I’m in the minority. There’s so much going on within the grooves of Grey Oceans that mortal men and women will surely seek out something less demanding, as CocoRosie’s fourth album requires a lot of attention and patience from its listeners.
With the “enter at your own risk” sticker firmly in place and your expectation of normalcy completely dismantled, Grey Oceans is a beautiful spectrum of sounds that is uncommon in today music landscape. It may not appease those who are looking for immediate beauty, but for anyone willing to invest the time in peeling the onion of Grey Oceans‘ many layers, it contains something very gorgeous.
Video: CocoRosie – “Lemonade”
Trailer: CocoRosie – “Trinity’s Crying”