The Adventures of Ghosthorse & Stillborn
(Touch and Go)
Rumor has it that CocoRosie's first recording was a hiphop album that was never released; judging from the goth-hop fairy-funk "Rainbowarriors," the opening track of The Adventures of Ghosthorse & Stillborn, it's an easy tale to believe. If only the rest of the album lived up to that highlight: Spacious, ethereal production, beyond-left-field sample collaging, and Sierra Casady's airy operatics lift the track like a balloon with only a kettledrum thump and sister Bianca's assertive bumble-b-girl rap keeping it from sailing out of orbit. The song is easily the most ridiculously original and successful experiment so far this year, out-Björking Björk.
"Promise" isn't far behind. With a beat-boxing Muppet hiding behind flanged effects, Bianca's voice downshifts to Joanna Newsom–esque baby-doll pillow talk, warbling of "the crystal light that sleeps between my thighs." It sounds like a tiny enchanted rave under a spotted toadstool.
And "Japan" is another wild excursion—like the Casady sisters rode bareback on a unicorn from a forest dub carnival to the studio, raring to record their most linear lyrics: "Everybody wants to go to Iraq/But once they go they don't come back/Bringing peanut butter jelly and other snacks/We might have our freedom but we're still on crack." It's maddening or smile inducing (or both if you're that type).
After that, the album slips like sleep into atmospherics and impressionism. Somnambulant beats, grab-bag instrumentation, and Bianca's rosy voice occasionally prick the ears but mostly glaze them with sample-heavy, melody-light sonic condensation, diffused and mysterious, with all the weight, beauty, and endurance of twilight clouds. More than a collection of songs, Ghosthorse & Stillborn is a mood, a memory, demanding only as much attention as you'd give a dream. JONATHAN ZWICKEL
Remixed & Covered
(5RC/Kill Rock Stars)
Xiu Xiu must be both a gratifying and a maddening band to reinterpret. Jamie Stewart and Caralee McElroy write some fantastically weird songs with plenty of layers for the would-be remixer or cover artist to isolate and obsess over. But the original songs, while rich, are also impossibly bizarre, and Xiu Xiu's singular chemistry would be a nightmare to replicate.
Unsurprising then that the most successful artists on Remixed & Covered tend to distance themselves pretty drastically from the source material.
This Song Is a Mess but So Am I grabs the single stab of synth on "Buzzsaw" and works it into a gleeful, well, mess of 8-bit hiccups and belches. Why? glue together the perverse spoken word of "The Wig Master" and turn it into melodic verse. Devendra Banhart does a comically demented doo-wop version of the previously scathing noise polemic "Support Our Troops." Gold Chains reimagine McElroy as a budget Kylie Minogue on their gauzy glitch disco treatment of "Hello from Eau Claire." Grouper fills the cavernous spaces of "Tonite & Today" with shimmering reverb, all but obliterating the hushed vocals. Xiu Xiu contribute their own manic, sputtering remix of their cover of Joy Division's classic "Ceremony."
Other artists are less successful or just less interesting. Kid 606 beefs up "Fabulous Muscles" with a bouncing beat while dislocating the original's guitar and vocals, but it's just pleasant, phoned-in indietronica—his remix of "Bishop, Ca" is a far more winning use of his skills. Her Space Holiday strips the otherworldly "I Luv the Valley OH!" of its psychotic atmosphere and damaged beat, rendering it as a watered-down piano-bar standard. Cherry Point uselessly buries "Ales" under an impenetrable blanket of skuzzy distortion. Oxbow's "Saturn" is overwrought and annoying. Marissa Nadler's ethereal "Clowne Towne" is pretty but a little too Ren Faire.
Other acts, notably Good for Cows and Son, turn in some interesting variations as well, but as with any artist remix or tribute record, it's a mixed batch overall, with only a few artists improving upon or owning Xiu Xiu's songs. Remixed & Covered will leave Xiu Xiu fans pining for the originals and fans of the contributing bands and producers amused at their oddities, but neither set will be fully satisfied with this compilation. ERIC GRANDY
If punk subverted prog with short-ass songs and lack of playing ability, Animal Collective's Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) brings the subversion full circle by squashing two-second-long attention spans. That isn't to say Person Pitch is some expansive mind flex—Lennox is too steeped in dance music's repetitious pulse to veer off into overindulgence. Rather, Person Pitch lays out a new template, one that cycles between ghostly ooze and euphoric bounce—an effect that makes every difficult part worth waiting through. The 12-minute epic "Bros" runs into "turn this shit off" territory before dropping a two-chord progression that easily laces through Lennox's delayed-out vocals. "Good Girl/Carrots" works in much the same way, starting with an almost too long tabla loop before dropping into three interwoven songs: The first is a sort of campfire-on-mushrooms thing that slowly morphs into a plaintive post-trip reflection, finally settling on a dubby awakening that eases the dizziness.
Slower jams like "Take Pills" and "Comfy in Nautica" trigger acute Brian Wilson flashbacks, mounting layers of harmonized vocals with freaky delay modulation and multitrack wizardry. Like the other ideas Lennox appropriates, there's a lack of cynicism that runs through everything from the production style to the melodic approach. It's what makes this album far more than the sum of its parts—an almost indefinable sense of childish euphoria that ties everything together. Live, you could see glimpses of it while Lennox was bouncing away behind the toms for Animal Collective, but it never translated to an album. With Person Pitch, that sense of play and wonderment finally balances the experimentation, resulting in an almost perfect, immersive whole. BRANDON IVERS
FrogsSlaying of the firstborn