CocoRosie is the potently poetic music-based project of American cross-disciplinary performance artists Sierra and Bianca Casady. They sing eye-opening accounts of unsayable things, yet their music ultimately celebrates a spiritual freedom attainable in the purely natural world. Their songs blend a myriad of styles and references, from hip-hop and reggae through to folk and opera, shaping the most painful of experiences into memorable and evocative pop songs. Taken as a whole, CocoRosie’s music is an ongoing psychologically intimate dialogue between the siblings. Each sister has her own persona and vocal delivery; Bianca delivers hard-hitting truths in a childlike voice whilst Sierra responds in pure open tones, playing a range of instruments including the harp, flute, piano, and guitar.
CocoRosie now introduce their fifth album, Tales Of A GrassWidow, produced in collaboration with Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurðsson and enriched by a whole host of guest performances. It’s a brave record, synthesizing electronic and organic sound to convey a futuristic, back-to-nature feeling. The sisters boldly tackle topics most wouldn’t dare including child abuse, drawing parallels between the treatment of children, especially girls, as disposable and the destruction of the earth’s resources.
Amongst the 11 tracks that weave together to create Tales of a GrassWidow is ‘Gravediggress,’ whose recent release to the web saw CocoRosie warmly welcomed back by fans and critics alike. It’s a foreboding track, representative of the album’s overarching theme, the tale of an imagined conversation between an abandoned child and an outcast old woman. The young girl asks the Gravediggress to bury her love in the ground for safekeeping. With a wistful pump organ introduction, Bianca imparts the entreating child’s words, and Sierra, in haltering, but clear tones sings for the old woman. Their voices blend and overlap, suggesting the woman and child are the same person. Simple piano chords accompany their vocals, with chimes and a marching drum rhythm composed of beat box from CocoRosie’s longtime collaborator, Tez.
Friend and sometime collaborator Antony Hegarty, evoking the voice of Mother Nature, sings on the record’s second track, “Tears for Animals” and the album closer, “Poison.” “Child Bride” awakens the image of grass blowing outside the window soothing a five-year-old girl given away by her family; In “After the Afterlife” the narrator recalls details from the physical world now out of reach; wet snails, moth wings and ashes from a day lit fire. ‘Roots Of My Hair’ describes a solitary child happy with the company of a sparrow.
In their ten years as CocoRosie, the sisters have released four albums: Grey Oceans (2010), The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn (2007), Noah’s Ark (2005), and their first album “La maison de mon rêve” (2004) – each one inspiring controversy and debate in equal amounts to praise, such is their fearlessness and willingness to take risks with their art. This strong creative vision runs through every aspect of their work - from videos to live performance utilizing theatrical costumes and make up which they create alongside each new body of songs.
Finding expression for their ideas in other disciplines beyond the traditional musical parameters is paramount to the sisters - and often a source of inspiration for their songwriting. In addition to their album tours and festival performances worldwide, Sierra has arranged and performed operas in collaboration with the likes of the Symphony Orchestra of Amsterdam, The ICA in London and The Sydney Opera House. Bianca has had exhibitions in both alternative and established fine art venues all around the world. She’s hosted informal fashion shows, artist salons, book clubs, and taught and given poetry readings.
In 2012, CocoRosie choreographed “Nightshift,” a dance production and “Soul Life,” an opera both staged at the Donau Festival in Krems. Bianca held a solo exhibition of her artwork in NYC and the sisters performed at London’s Meltdown Festival curated by their longtime friend Antony Hegarty.
This spring, along with theatre director Robert Wilson the duo unveil their work on a production of “Peter Pan” by the Berliner Ensemble and will be perform in Paris under the curation of Laurie Anderson.
Later this year Bianca will launch with artist Anne Sherwood Pundyk ‘Girls Against God’ - an arts and letters print publication. Linked to this project, Bianca and Sierra Casady have founded the Future Feminists with Antony Hegarty and performance artists Kembra Pfahler and Johanna Constantine. The group’s platform is to “free society and protect the planet from the corrosive effects of patriarchal belief systems”. The songs in “Tales of a GrassWidow,” touch on CocoRosie’s personal response to the group’s feminist mission.
On top of all of this, they will be touring extensively across the world. For now, however, we leave you this, their fifth musical offering; one which showcases the Casady sisters at their most inspired, creative and fearless; Tales of a GrassWidow.