Touch and Go
ocoRosie frightens me. I see in these sisters the squirm of incest, de Maupassant’s keen tragedies and Faulkner’s sweatheap southern Gothic gone avant-folk. I feel fatigue, family skeletons, loved and lost on payouts and blackmail. I hear ages, legions, and broken limbs in these voices. There are soiled epics here, quakes and lesions in an iron well. I don’t know if I’m hearing the right things, or just listening through the songs to the gypsy heritage the girls portray so well.
Sure, the half-Cherokee sisters were present (and quoted in the Washington Post; but who trusts American journalism?) at the Kill Whitey party, and they professed some awfully indefensible positions. But on Noah’s Ark, I see the unmistakable signs of a genius that can overcome foul pub. Devendra Banhart, who guests here alongside Antony (from the, erm, Johnsons), will get all the press. But he’s bloated, he’s uncertain, and still incapable of an ‘album.’ His Conquistador charm can fill forty minutes, but by God, dude, get yourself into the editing room.
Instead, it’s CocoRosie who understand the calm cram of the season, and all you Banhart freakouts would be better off with the queer glow of this duo’s pincheyed whalesong. “And Mozart’s Requiem will play/on tiny speakers made of clay.” The song, there we have it, seen through a veil of fantasy.
Either way, following the polarizing success of their debut, La Maison de Mon Reve, the sisters Casady set off on supporting tours the world wide—behind Bright Eyes, compatriot Devendra Banhart, and TV on the Radio amongst others--and recorded their follow-up in various locales from France to New York. While their first record joined avant-folk with the music-box surrealism of a Catskills Bjork, on Noah’s Ark, the duo finds focus in their freakfuck Amazonian drawl, and the result is one of the year’s more promising follow-ups.
“Beautiful Boys” has a Nina Simone feel to raise its anemic goth, riding the sisters’ classical vocal-jazz stylings, a stumbling beat, and stately piano part, where “Bear Rides and Buffalo” is beat-box head-torque, xylophones swelling over the mewing of cats and the roughneck bark of electronics. Guest Antony’s falsetto rubs past the noise and the grime. By shit, there are horses neighing, I think, and most certainly a fairy death knell involved, but with Antony involved, it’s hard to split the elf from the elfin.
The title track uses a simple machine beat and spilled electronics to gaslight the Dead Sea. The sisters trade water-damp parts here, and tell a story of a surrealist’s Ark-carryaway. It’s hard to imagine at this point a better start for the new world. New World perhaps. By this point, post-Katrina, we need capitals.
Taking that song’s heaving folk to its logical hover-point, “Armageddon” is a gorgeous gospel campfire sway. The air swelling with Crayola smudge, melted waxy and smeared on eyelids and nails alike, a rough and tumble forest gang, the duo gathers their chorus against tribal drums and drunken synth fills. In the cricket din, we all learn to group in the aftermath of a world gone region.
Rarely pulling you out of their whispersmoke, save perhaps the smug French rap of “Bisounours,” Noah’s Ark proves, again, that the Casady sisters are perhaps at the forefront of the overlabored ‘freak-folk’ scene. I mean, Francophone hip-hop, saloon pianos, cursing telephones, harps, and muscles of white noise. Cacophony. !. Din. !. Most of all, quiet Western hope via escapism, today.