Coco Rosie: The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn

D.M. Edwards
COCO ROSIE [Photo: Samantha West]

Pop, eating itself and then throwing up and eating itself again. Sounds great? Not when verve and a trash aesthetic are lacking.

Coco Rosie

The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn

Label: Touch and Go
US Release Date: 2007-04-09
UK Release Date: 2007-04-08

It seems another lifetime since Coco Rosie's debut swooped onto an unsuspecting audience with all the weird grace of a slightly injured kestrel. La Maison de Mon Reve was soaked in so much indulgent charm that any flaws merely added to the allure. It pains me to say it, but sections of Ghosthorse and Stillborn land with all the welcome splat and pungency of pigeon shit.

Lest we forget, La Maison de Mon Reve was a hideously seductive perfume of cartoonesque pre-war blues, twee-hop, and chilled dollhouse opera. The sounds chimed and ticked in minimalist pop-folk delirium and the sisters spewed existential vomit, gloriously sweet as a childhood memory taken from someone else's photograph. It was as if a serpent of unknown origin, once housed in the belly of Lucille Bogan, had slithered across decades and deserts, over old bibles and rusted guitar strings, through assorted silky or lacy undergarments, was somehow borne across an ocean, to wind through cobbled streets, ascend Parisian plumbing, and emerge simultaneously in the bodies of sisters lolling unsuspectingly in the bath; thereby causing them to speak in the babbling tongues of women long disappeared from sweltering fields and glittering theatrical dressing rooms.

That their rhythmic incantations were called pretentious, and rumored to be made by trust fund recipients who couldn't recite half a dozen important events in the history of racial or gender liberation, mattered not one jot. Just as it was of no consequence that they had little to say, that one of them didn't so much sing as utter a catlike screech, and the arrangements verged not so much on the childlike as the fetal. Though purists muttered spuriously about authenticity, such churlishness was as that of wine drinkers going by the label not the taste. For through the steam emerged an admittedly wet but rather wonderful dream. Some tracks had all the quality of an answering machine message and, splendidly, were about as short. Less was more. All that was important was that it sounded great.

Even allowing for the presence of a time traveling reptile, it was sadly inevitable that they would be allowed to leave the bathroom. Doing so was arguably a mistake. It seems that the jittery snake of inspiration, as quickly as it entered, has slipped away into the welcoming sewers for pastures unknown. The sisters previously jabbered in a state of hypnotized derangement that, perhaps due to its intimacy, reeked of fundamental abandon. That debut resembled a happy accident of acoustics and domestic realignment pact wherein Coco Rosie's sound was clad only in whatever was to hand, which is why we were treated to percussion by metal belt. Their audio sketches in the low-budget equivalent of charcoal and cheap watercolor were little more than un-joined dots resounding with spontaneity and echoing with mystery. When the fever broke, though they remembered nothing of the serpent muse, their follow upNoah's Ark sounded to me like a hollow, unfocused, over produced mess.

In 2006 with a new companion and under the banner of Metallic Falcons, the operatic sister headed into a metaphorical desert perhaps in search of the lost sweetness, with higher-profile pals like Devendra Banhart and Antony along to carry the luggage. Devendra's involvement might have brought a similar throwaway and formulaic feel as his disappointing and largely dreadful Cripple Crow. In the event though, while Desert Doughnuts was neither as sexy nor as sad as La Maison de Mon Reve, it is unlikely to enjoy the shelf-life of that little gem, and seemed a trifle wooden or over careful, it definitely marked a healthy hop, skip, and jump away from the disposable Noah's Ark.

So, this is Coco Rosie’s third attempt. Opener "Rainbowarriors" briefly reintroduces the belt as percussion but swiftly becomes an obnoxiously slick anthem suffering from an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink approach to production. There are even a few horse neighs thrown in for no good reason. I hope it is a #1 smash but a comb and paper version would have been much better. There are some clues that we are in the territory of Our Lord and this is main very plain in the turgid "Promise".

After “Bloody Twins” and “Japan” I could barely stand much more. Surprisingly, the middle section of this record offers genuine hope that Coco Rosie can recover and lift out of creative nosedive. "Sunshine" is a threadbare piece of twee nothingness that is more than bearable. Even better is the cut-price ethereality of “Black Poppies” which suggests to me that the sisters have died and the serpent has entered their grave (I assume they will be buried together) to invest them with the inspiration of necrophilia. It creaks like a coffin lid. There are splendid buzzes and phoned-in-from-beyond-the-cartoon-grave mutterings. Thelonious Chipmunk, if you will.

“Werewolf” is also excellent. This creepy tale, perhaps autobiographical, strongly hints at abuse of power, incest, a residue of pain, betrayal and defiance, and is splendidly framed by simple piano and driven by pseudo-religious rhythms. “Animals” hints at brilliance in the opera, bicycle bells, static and lazy beat yet doesn’t get there. “Houses” benefits from a tossed coin, piano, and the powerful operatic pipes at the disposal of one sister; currently underused, though possibly destined to reign triumphant one day. It's written by Devendra Banhart, if that matters to you. “Girl and the Geese” is pretty insipid and suffers due to the narrator’s ignorance of the singular of geese. The narrator is otherwise really rather excellent. Antony shows up briefly on the final track “Miracle”, a fittingly half-hearted finale to a half-hearted record.

Partly because the girls are far from conventional pip-ups, I would love to be wrong and for a series of worldwide mega smash hits to leap from Ghosthorse and Stillborn despite their often dreadful sense of fashion and design. It seems though, that what Coco Rosie does best is the equivalent of delivering handmade postcards to houses in a tiny village of narrow alleys and leafy avenues. When they did it on foot or on their tandem it was easy. Now they are doing it, metaphorically speaking, in Ferraris or Lincolns, which in theory can go faster but aren't designed for this terrain. The Spanish Armada had huge galleons but Sir Francis Drake sunk their invasion with his maneuverable fleet. If I could, I would either persuade them to stop disappearing up their own arses or just go ahead and push them further up and put us out of our misery. That may seem drastic and overblown, but I speak as someone who reveled in the bathtub subterranean gibberish of their debut. This new record has a genuinely hopeful and perhaps truthful center which drips with promise but elsewhere lacks excitement, eroticism, soul, humor, and breadth. Other than that, it's fine. If I’m not mistaken, there are powers at work outside the sisters, and painful autobiographical memories that must surface. I recommend spending as much time in the bath as the captain of the Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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