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Music Review

CocoRosie electricity a bit static

Sisters Sierra (top) and Bianca Casady are CocoRosie, whose originality provokes listeners’ strong and divergent reactions. Sisters Sierra (top) and Bianca Casady are CocoRosie, whose originality provokes listeners’ strong and divergent reactions.
By James Reed
Globe Staff / June 14, 2010

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CocoRosie, the enigmatic sister act of Bianca and Sierra Casady, has carved an enviable career out of provoking without really engaging in the conversation. The duo’s music, a mystic distortion of hip-hop, art song, and fringe folk, is unflinching in its vision, inviting as many admirers as detractors.

The sisters’ originality and off-kilter style are refreshing, but too often you get the sensation that CocoRosie’s songs pose abstract questions only to leave you with even fewer answers.

But at Royale on Saturday night, nobody seemed to be in search of a greater understanding, at least not when CocoRosie took the stage for a singular performance that preached to the eager masses.

As robust as the theatrics were — the band included both a human beatboxer and a piano player — CocoRosie’s performance often felt as stationary as the helium balloons (“Happy Birthday!,’’ “It’s a boy’’) tethered to the stage.

The problem lay in the simple fact that you’re either with the Casadys or you’re against them. For the unconverted, it was hard to pump your fists in solidarity when Sierra exclaimed, “We are rainbowarriors!’’ a battle cry both idyllic and hollow.

The Casadys are the polar opposites of sibling harmony; they are studies in contrast. Sierra, statuesque and a classically trained soprano, spent most of the evening adorning songs with wide-open operatic trills and twirling about as if starring in a Technicolor musical.

Bianca, on the other hand, was an insular force, guarded as she rattled off words with a stilted hip-hop flow in a voice between gremlin and newborn. Often it was best not to pay too much attention to what she was singing (“Tiny spirit in a K-hole / Bloated like soggy cereal’’).

Their differences sometimes led to genuine thrills, as on “Lemonade,’’ from the group’s new album, “Grey Oceans.’’ After Bianca’s grim recitations, Sierra pierced the song with a gleeful interlude, her distorted voice making her sound like a psychedelic Judy Garland.

By contrast, opener Diane Cluck had nothing to hide behind except the heavy buzz from her guitar strings and a naked voice that was slippery like mercury. Direct and unvarnished, she wore her heart on her sleeve, delivering lyrics like private poems: “We were two till we melted down/ Now you’re easy to be around.’’

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.

COCOROSIE
With Diane Cluck
At: Royale, Saturday