Starting a sibling-based band (either real or contrived) has to be the most overused and successful gimmick in music. From the current crop of Whites and Friedbergers all the way back to the Ramones, the Jacksons and the Osmonds, we’re suckers for blood-bonded bandmates, especially if there’s drama involved. Half-sisters Bianca and Sierra Casady, for example, aren’t afraid to let anyone know they spent most of their lives having nothing to do with one another. A spur-of-the-moment trip by Bianca to Paris, where Sierra was studying at the time, led to their fateful cosmic connection and the recording of last year’s La Maison de Mon Reve. On the surface, these young, attractive sisters who have a shaky history and play freak-folk ditties seem like a Frankenstein monster out of a publicity agent’s dream.
Thankfully, there’s some substance beneath the style. Noah’s Ark fuses gentle folk melodies and bizarre found sounds with electro blips while alternating between both primitive and modern recording techniques. The result is a dense, bewitching collection of songs that continually reveals something new. The album boasts a who’s who of freak-folk all-stars as guests, including Devendra Banhart, Antony, and French emcee Spleen.
Your enjoyment of this album will depend on how open you are to cats meowing, telephone rings, and French spoken-word passages weaving in and out of the songs. Ultimately, though, Bianca’s singing voice will be the deal-breaker. Although Sierra has operatic training and is gifted with a soaring voice, she rarely sings on the record, ceding the bulk of the vocal duties to Bianca, who doesn’t so much sing as warble. Some will think it’s endearing; others will probably find it insufferable. Those who can’t look past that divisive factor are missing out, though. Noah’s Ark is a challenging listen, but it’s a rewarding one.