[sic] Magazine

CocoRosie – Grey Oceans

CocoRosie have more than a little Marmite to them. Those than love them do so for the same reasons as those that hate them. Freak-folk isn’t for everyone, and it is fair to say that sisters Bianca “Coco” and Sierra “Rosie” Casady are sometimes freakier than most (see the artwork). It’s interesting then that Grey Oceans presents itself as a crossroads in the relationship with their audience.

Combining electronic beats, decidedly operatic vocals and skittish asides under a banner of freak-folk was always going to polarise the public. The girls’ catalogue prior to Grey Oceans comprises three albums. Each has dizzying experimental highs, and each has borderline annoying quirks and dalliances. The latter often bubbles down to focus on the childlike singing, which can grate, but always comes with some degree of temperance in the form of fluttery folk and/or scale-straddling soprano and beats.

On Grey Oceans, this childish chatter is kept to a minimum – only the 30 second intro to “Hopscotch” falls into this divisive camp. As a result, the sisters latest offering seems instantly more mature, and less pretentious as a result. Safe, folkish offerings such as the title track and “The Moon Asked The Crow” may not be for everyone, but further support this argument, but not just that of a maturing, also that of a mellowing.

Nevertheless, the sum of their efforts is still rather beguiling. With a mild ethnic flavour to proceedings that echoes the recent work of Taken By Trees , the Grey Oceans patchwork is more colourful than its name suggests. There is a skilled balance to the laser synths and delicate piano that decorate the opener “Trinity’s Crying”. A hazy and traditional oriental influence plays out over the strings and percussive tablas of follow up “Smokey Taboo”.

The textural glitches provided by the dignified “R.I.P. Burn Face” add competent progression to the album, while the poignant piano and relaxed beats of the lead single “Lemonade” provide an alluring, near-Nordic sense of Balearica to proceedings. “Gallows” is a whispery exercise in eerie restraint, whereas the entirely danceable, beat-heavy glitches and pulses of “Fairy Paradise” are a late highlight. Really, only the album closer “Here I Come” disappoints, reprising the earlier piano against both helium-laced vocals and a deeper, spoken-word overlay.

Experimental music requires exploration and CocoRosie seem both to be exploring themselves, past, present and future, as well as dipping a toe into the murky waters of commercial appeal with their perhaps aptly-titled Grey Oceans. Those that prefer it strictly weird may leave these high seas feeling short changed, but for those that were never quite convinced, CocoRosie may well have just made their best album to date.

Advised downloads: “Fairy Paradise” and “Lemonade”.

Grey Oceans is out now on Sub Pop .