Bianca Casady, Coco of CocoRosie, certainly has a taste for the weirder side of folk music. She fully explores this rich vein of inspiration with her band the C.i.A on their first long player Oscar Hocks. A full on Victorian carnival I can imagine being mc’d by Tom Waits introducing a ghoulish cast of deceased characters from Cormac McCarthy’s darkest tales all singing or intoning a twisted, broken field music.
Opener ‘Hay Loft’ stumbles in; accordion, strings, saxophone and Casady’s dark faerie drawl all held loosely together like strands of a cobweb by pots and pan percussion. It’s a fair indication of the sheer breadth and depth of the ideas contained in these dozen folk tale incantations. ‘Daisy Chain’ manages to blend toy piano, feedback loops and handclaps with synth hisses and tabla drums and is a beguiling and beautiful triumph to boot.
“…you may have turned me away from magic but not away from madness” Casady, wide eyed and rocking, tells us in ‘Roadkill’ but both seem in abundance listening to the cast of characters paraded before the listener here. Characters’ stories that were brought to life for the tour; Porno Thietor in which dancers would narrate and perform the stories of Oscar Hocks while Casady sang from the side of the stage, directly to the audience. Surely an unnerving and exhilarating experience worth twice the entrance fee, for those with the bravery and patience. For this is no light hearted walk in the park and I’m sure the theatrical element and spoken word earnestness may be too rich for some. But for those hardy souls here lies a record packed with ideas and experimental bravery that crams more ingenuity and craft into half a song than you’d find in an entire album elsewhere.
So while this ambitious project may not be immediately accessible to all it does reward careful attention and you do, after all get to lose yourself in that voice. By penultimate track ‘Tumbleweed’ the macabre jazz stomp has faded to a melancholic beauty and you start to pine for her unique melodies while still entranced.
Review by Sean Daly