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CocoRosie, "Noah's Ark"

I'm not entirely certain whether CocoRosie should actually be considered a musical group, or just a collection of willful, calculated eccentricities clumsily juxtaposed with each other.


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CocoRosie - Noah's Ark

The whole existence of CocoRosie represents only the newest in a recent run of decisive victories of style over substance, surface over depth. This sounds like the opening to a very dismissive trashing of the duo's new album Noah's Ark, and perhaps it is, but I also don't want to ignore or downplay the shiny, effervescent superficialities that conspire to create a seductive and undeniably intriguing album (though its intriguing for all the wrong reasons).

CocoRosie are two American sisters who reunited, after a long separation, in Paris; trust-fund babies who caught wind of the freak-folk current typified by Devendra Banhart and the Golden Apples stable. Their first album was a conscious bandwagon-jump, with purposely low-fidelity recordings of the two sisters harmonizing with creepily contrived infantile vocals (a la Joanna Newsom, but without the musical chops), singing along to music-box melodies or clunky programmed rhythms. The Casady sisters appeared in publicity shots in self-consciously retro 1920s European flapper-wear and make-up, looking an awful lot like The Dresden Dolls. Their style has slowly morphed over the past couple years of touring into an almost transcendent form of deliberate tackiness, culminating in the album cover for Noah's Ark, with its crude drawings of unicorns and vomiting zebras gleefully humping under a rainbow projected from a pentagram tattooed on a Care Bear's forehead.

The sisters themselves look terrible, with partial moustaches, mullets, ugly tie-died clothes and clashing Native American jewelry. I'm spending so much time on the visual tactics of CocoRosie because it seems to be at least as, if not more, important than the music itself. This time out, the girls are assisted by French hip-hop beat-boxer Spleen, who provides some clunky, junky, unfunky beats over which the Casady sisters can strain themselves trying to sound like crippled midgets with foetal alcohol syndrome crying for their mothers in a cartoon faerie land. Noah's Ark is the soundtrack to those psychedelic Lisa Frank trapper-keepers that grade-school girls fancied during the My Little Pony-infested 80s. It's studied in its mastery of faux-naive posturing, and in some ways represents a remarkable feat of substance-less, free-floating postmodernity.

Take the album's opening track, "K-Hole," which renders the disassociative experience of Ketamine in nightmarishly jubilant lyrical couplets like: "God will come and wash away/Our tattoos and all the cocaine/And all of the aborted babies/Will turn into little Bambies" and "I dreamt one thousand basketball courts/Nothing holier than sports." I must admit that something inside of me is attracted to such warped surreality, but the song is couched in instantly recognizable Bjork-isms and can't help but seem like a style parody. Other tracks use a similar palette, skeletal melodies and ramshackle beat programming, with vocal multi-tracking and an arsenal of superfluous psychedelic touches, none of it remarkable musically. Several guest stars feature prominently, most notably the recent Mercury Prize winner Antony, who donates vocals to "Beautiful Boyz," a paean to prison sex; and Devendra Banhart, who warbles in Spanish on "Brazilian Sun." Along the way, Diane Cluck, Jana Hunter and some French rapper also make appearances, desperately trying to pad the album with artistic heft, so that no one will notice the undernourished, bulimic 13-year-old girl at the heart of the album. Please, someone feed her and pay attention to her. I can't do it, but somebody really should.

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Review of the Day

nymphomatriarch
Hymen
The much anticipated synthesized sexual symphony of Hecate's Rachael Kozak and Venetian Snares' Aaron Funk is quite clinical in its final state. Created entirely from sounds of the two's sexcapades in various places on their tour, the music is more appealing in the creation concept. What's left at the end are the thumps of bed posts as bass drum kicks, loads of high-pitched rhythmic sounds and only a tiny splash of bedroom banter. The second cut (or first non-filler song if you discount the Intro) "Blood on the Rope" gives a lot of hope with some heavy breathing and some skin slapping sounds towards the beginning, but it shortly gives way to moderately unchallenging mechanic dark drum 'n bass. The two deserve credit for assembling 35 minutes of music which rarely resemble the original sources, but there's something to be said for a stronger incorporation of untouched recordings back in to the mix once things have become unrecognizable. After being in love with the previous two brilliant EPs from Venetian Snares on Hymen, the Nymphomatriarch is musically a let-down as it doesn't even seem as provocative or daring as either nor as the hype would make it seem. Fans of clean drum 'n bass sounds might feel slightly different, however, and with about 12 minutes of underwater ambience smack-dab in the middle, those who can only read about sex might find a charge. The closest this extended single comes to orgasmic is in the second to last track (or last non-filler track) "Pervs," where more skin slapping could be taking place, but it's so far removed from recognition that it could easily be just another clever computer plugin. Perhaps I'm too much of a sick pervert, myself, but I think I was truly jonesing for a more voyeuristic and unlubricated experience, one where the sound could conjure the smells of the breath and fluids of everybody involved. 

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