HERE'S A LITTLE SCENARIO for you: Drunk on a $4 bottle of wine, you find yourself in a part of town you've never been before. Residential on the edge of industrial—factories spewing up great black clouds above dead lawns covered with broken children's toys. The houses look abandoned. The sun sets. Shadows crowd the streets. You hear a phone ring, follow it through an open door, but inside you find no phone. Rather, you find a dozen antique music boxes squatting on the bare wood floor. And then the walls begin to bleed—bright watercolors pouring down in mixing trickles—and the music boxes all begin to play. Their separate songs swell up as one, even as the boxes disassemble, their pieces coming apart, crumbling. And yet the song persists, gets louder, and the walls grow muddy as, strangely calm, you take a seat on the floor and watch all this unfold.
Since their 2004 debut, La Maison de Mon Rêve, sisters Sierra and Bianca Casady have been making music that defies not only convention, but also anything conventionally unconventional. Many bands, regardless of how unique they may be, succumb to genres strung together or else new names created to describe them. (Read: avant-psyche-folk, etc.) CocoRosie, though, refuses to be pinned down. Their newest album, Noah's Ark, insists on this fact further.
One song, "The Sea Is Calm," opens with a quiet male voice speaking in French, soon breaking off and being followed by sparse piano keys and the recorded noise of something bubbling. The lyrics suggest a story of a girl who's lost her boy through suicide, throwing himself into the sea and drowning. Even this much is ambiguous, which is pretty representative of CocoRosie's lyrical style, which adds to the haunting beauty of the album and serves to render it ethereal.
Other times, found sounds of mechanical toys pepper hiphop beats and other sonic layers, and operatic vocals ghost through surreal, childlike intonations. Many of the remaining songs play out like a soundtrack to urban decay, beautiful and dark, rich and full of sadness. But this is a decay that reassembles itself into something completely new. The aesthetic of these pieces are so self-contained, it's a wonder that the band hasn't prompted their own genre in and of itself, but it's hard to imagine anyone else weaving something even comparable.
It's safe to say that no one sounds like CocoRosie. But CocoRosie is not safe at all—in fact, they're almost frightening—and that is precisely why they stand out in a world where it so often seems we've long since heard it all.
But you haven't heard this. I promise.