Ian Gittins 

CocoRosie – review

CocoRosie's forte is magical-realism pop pitched at the juncture where kooky spills into spooky, writes Ian Gittins
  
  

Antony Hegarty's Meltdown is decidedly gender-political. In curating the event, the New York singer has chosen artists who he feels embrace "oestrogen-based thinking", and summarises the bill he has assembled – primarily art-pop with the emphasis heavily on the first syllable – as "mainly ecstatic female voices, with a few queens thrown in".

That remit certainly encompasses CocoRosie, the US freak-folk and fractured dream-pop band based around the half-Cherokee sisters Sierra and Bianca Casady. During the last decade, the duo have crafted precious music that frequently spirals off into pretentiousness, yet boasts a fierce beauty at its cluttered core.

Backed by a three-man band supplying electronics and human beatboxing, the sisters are a marked visual contrast. Dressed like a burlesque scientist, Sierra is possessed of a keening, powerful operatic trill that she unleashes while strumming a harp. Bianca resembles a goth attendee at Ascot and alternates haunting, husky whispers with helium-voiced rapping. Their forte is magical-realism pop pitched at the juncture where kooky spills into spooky. Their fragile songs appear to be held together by gossamer, yet are surprisingly sturdy: Sierra's imploring vocal, which evokes both Kate Bush and Diamanda Galás, is lovely on jazzy new track Daisy Chain, while Bianca's Björk-like growl illuminates the through-the-looking-glass pop of Smokey Taboo.

Hercules and Love Affair-affiliated transgender singer Nomi Ruiz joins the Casadys to croon through their former Antony collaboration, Beautiful Boyz, as the stage disintegrates into a sea of beatific beams and wafty dancing. For an art-pop band as contrary and uneven as CocoRosie to earn two fervent standing ovations, Meltdown is doing something very right.