REVIEW: Casket Girls - The Night Machines

Kelly Kirwan

The Greene sisters have cultivated their own brand of Southern Gothic. Living in Savannah as self-styled "recluses," the two have drawn a following with their soft, even vocals which always serve to temper their dissonant, organ-synth melodies. Their selective ventures into the public eye are to perform as Casket Girls, a term that’s carried the question mark of a ghost story in its own right.

As the legend goes, casket girls were groups of women brought over from Europe, mostly to Louisiana. They were meant to be brides, but whispers and side-eyes grew, and soon the matrimonial exchange evolved into the idea that casket girls were, in fact, otherworldly. It’s no wonder that Phaedra and Elsa Greene felt akin to these waifs and their ghostly reputation. Their promotional posters always incorporate a motif of blindness, a palm or cloth covering the eye, conjuring up references to the wool-spinning Moirai, sisters of fate that could see the future in the thread they spun. 

It’s a theme that carries over into their latest album, The Night Machines, which dives into supernatural subjects like clairvoyance and our delicate mortality. The deep, unwavering percussion comes into play, courtesy of TW Walsh (of Pedro the Lion), along with Ryan Graveface (of Black Moth, and of course the band's label Graveface Records) rounding out their shades of shoegaze goth. It’s a sort of airy punk-mysticism that Casket Girls have developed over the past few years with steady success.

Their track "Walk the Water" begins with an eerie sort of exhale—a phantom’s cry, or a gust of wind? It then breaks into a tangy synth evocative of a pipe organ, whose keys are being pressed with fervent abandon. “We live in this unusual world / Isn’t it delusional?” they pose, their voices veering into a higher pitch, before adding, “Walk the water / Seek the past,” alluding, it seems, to our flawed sense of the real. Casket Girls give us the pin to poke holes in those presumptions, coming to us as songbird sages or fortune tellers, backed by a catchy hook. 

"Mermaid Cottage" unfolds with a crinkling beat and, again, that organ pitch against a gentle trill, "I dream of sin / That glitters in the sun / Where you and I will rest my darling one ... We’ll shed our skin and finally get free." It’s a softer song, an air of indie pop that feels at peace, without those darker inklings we’ve come to know previously.

The thing with truth, the Greene sisters warn, is that "it always shatters." On The Night Machines, we see how their dreams and their affinity for the magical is more than just an escape. It’s a respite, an acceptance, and a sense of freedom in the tides that will "wash away our skin" and leave behind a specter that knows no earthly tethers. Casket Girls' aesthetic is more than mere affectation, and it begs to be embraced.