Review Summary: All afloat the imaginative boat.
Many albums have been associatively stamped with the prominence of bringing the listener back to their childhood. It's the music that brings back fond memories of places, events, relationships…yadda yadda. The most ridiculous form of this everyone has heard: “My mom would play this or that through her womb to my little, undeveloped fetus ears, and that is why I am so musically inclined today.” Noah’s Ark
tops all those albums by substantially using childhood sounds. Remember that nursery toy that made farm animal noises when you were a child? It’s called “The Farmer Says” and it’s made by Fisher-Price. Who would have thought to incorporate that thing into actual song recordings? CocoRosie. The lyrics either rapped or sang are far from nursery rhymes though. On the contrary, beautiful imagery, carefree inner thoughts, and haunting ideas create a personal atmosphere that suits the demented children’s music, if you will, so well. Ever since encountering the freak-folk sisters – Sierra and Bianca Casady, I was taken aback by the beyond creative capabilities they have. Noah’s Ark
is certainly bizarre, but there are quantum amounts of beneficial things to take away from this album.
Firstly, I have never seen so wild an imagination as I do in these ladies. The key to an untainted creative mind is to be as a lowly child. Abandoning all prideful pretense of adulthood is the start of expanding one’s imagination. Take time to notice the small things. Enjoy colors. So this is one ingredient in the art of CocoRosie – reliving childhood, or simply continuing it through the experienced mind of a “grown-up”. Another quite obvious contributing factor is (my accusation is not a hasty generalization) one or more influence of drugs. The creative genius born of a free mind is surely appreciated, but chasing fairies in the woods as they claimed to have done in an interview goes without saying. The first track “K-Hole” is even a drug reference. It’s probably pertinent that listeners understand that CocoRosie are more influenced by paintings, make-up, and cultures, than certain bands or genres. It’s clear that Noah’s Ark
is an output of the souls of these girls, not an attempt at making the record charts.
Diverse instrumentation is a highlight in this album. Aforementioned toy sounds are used along with synth, acoustic guitar, de-tuned piano, harp…as long as it’s not too rock-oriented - they probably have experimented with it. The beats range from beat-boxing to dissonant electronic loops. Most impressive is Sierra’s voice which soars to the heavens and lands gently on the drums of the listener’s ears. It brings to my mind the first time I heard the very similar sounding, angelic voice behind My Brightest Diamond. The type that everyone wants to hear sing them a lullaby. Then there is brat-sounding voice of Bianca to come wake you up from your lovely dreams. Drawing comparisons from Joanna Newsom, she brings equilibrium to the music, giving it an edge and an attitude. Devendra Banhart makes a rather pleasant appearance on “Brazilian Sun”. Antony Hegarty makes “Beautiful Boyz” all the more uncomfortable, by swooning along with free-love sisters. “Bisounours” features a creepy r&b moaning pattern leading into French rapper – Spleen’s verses that resemble Flight of The Conchords "Foux Du Fafa". It’s a rather humorous song. A music box, ringing telephone, and harmonica can be heard in “South 2nd”. Skip the track, and an overwhelming combination of random sounds that should never be heard in the same place swarm into a strangely beautiful and haunting structure. A horse’s whinnying, a music box pattern, a kitten meowing, a beat-box style beat, a lo-fi opera-style wailing, and snob-sounding, half-talked/half-sung vocals all in one track. The title track rises far above the other tracks with a catchy sing-along chorus and clear and concise verses beautifully chirped. There are some cohesive moments on the album when group singing chimes in a folky “sit-around-the-campfire” style, like in “Armageddon”.
Lyrically, the stories and ideas told by these nymphs touch on things that have never crossed most people’s minds. Some only amount to jumbled thoughts, while others create worlds. Subconscious themes are plenty like that in this line: “I dreamt one thousand basketball courts,
nothing holier than sports”. Tongue-in-cheek religious matters are played with: “What's God’s name? I can't remember”, “There'll be a place for us in heaven's gate waiting for us on lay away”, “God must have been a color blind”. There’s no telling where the Casady sisters got the idea that they were abducted by Noah with his animals, but it sure makes for intriguing fiction! Even disturbing and depressing things such as rape are written about in a poetic nature. “I'm riding recklessly through a thick and humid jungle growing anxious with the primal yearning that stirs deeply pulsing up toward the surface like sap rising or honey or tar.” Spanish and French both make an appearance in the lyric booklet for all the multi-lingual folks out there.
Whether CocoRosie’s artistry is a product of narcotics, emotional scars, spiritual visions, a fulfilling dream-life, or plain old free-spiritedness, one thing is certain. Noah’s Ark
reaches the listener like not many can. As haunting as it is gorgeous, it hits you deep within the soul. A friend joked with me saying CocoRosie was bound to give her nightmares. “Typical”, I thought. To my surprise, within that week, I literally had a nightmare about these freak-folkers. One can say they are unique, but it lacks the proof until actually lived out like CocoRosie.