CD #LTS0011: Total Time: 43:25
Artist Website: http://www.cockandswan.com/
Record Label: http://losttribesound.com/
Recorded by: http://dandeliongold.com/
Tracks: 1) Sneak Close; 2) Stash; 3) Raging Chisel; 4) Sympethizer; 5) Happy Thoughts; 6) Unrecognized; 7) Unserious; 8) Clear Sighing; 9) Remember Sweet; 10) I Let Me In; 11) Orange and Pink; 12) Walking Up Dandelions
Bonus MP3 EP: 1) Comfort Zone 2 (acoustic); 2) Raging Chisel; 3) Stash (Part Timer Remix); 4) End Sinister; 5) Random tracking; 6) Soft Setting; 7) Stash (Vieo Abiungo Remix)
Not so long ago I took a chance on purchasing an album based on a brief write-up and it turned out to be a real gem— Will Samson’s Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends. It has happened again with Cock and Swan’s Stash. I read a summary, and I also noticed the great care that Lost Tribe Sound had put into their limited edition release (cloth binding with mixed hand made papers). I could not resist, and what an enchanting surprise this album is.
Cock and Swan are Johnny Goss (bass, guitar, percussion, vocals and production) and Ola Hungerford (vocals, piano and clarinet). Supporting musicians include, Adam Kozie (drums), William Ryan Fritch (vibraphone, marimba, saxophone, flute and cello). Paintings are by Robert Klein and photography by Angel Ceballos.
Photo courtesy of Cock and Swan
There is something delightfully ancient and psychedelic about Stash. I won’t dwell for too long on what other albums I am reminded of—the percussion (including deep bass drums), woodwinds, soft and dreamy vocals. First, the ballads feel like they are drawn from the same cloth as Comin’ Back to Me from Surrealistic Pillow by the Jefferson Airplane (1967). Second, the drums—rough, full and sometimes behind the beat are very close to Michael Giles on both Cadence and Cascade from In The Wake of Poseidon by King Crimson (1970) and the alternate lyric version (by B. P. Fallon instead of Peter Sinfield) Flight of the Ibis from the eponymous album McDonald and Giles (also from 1970).
Some of the tracks on this album are acoustic remakes of more obscure electronic versions from their two prior albums (Unrecognized, Unserious, Sympethizer, I Let Me In, Stash, Tectonic Plates). It is evident that Cock and Swan were searching for a sound to fit the songs and I think in this album they have found it—softer, comfortable and more accessible (and with a hint of the sadly departed Sparklehorse).
Sneak Close and Stash both have guitars sounding like dulcimers, drum sticks counting time, whispering woodwinds, Ola Hungerford’s ethereal vocals and the overall sound of an old music box working against its well-used mainspring. Raging Chisel is an excellent combination of the obscure and edgy sounds of their earlier albums woven with melodic instrumental and vocal passages. Sympethizer is a short instrumental and Happy Thoughts moves slowly with a contrasting faster interlocking rhythm and subtle use of electronics. Tectonic Plates has a lush beat, sounds are layered (ambient and instrumental) and Ola’s voice floats in between. It’s easy to be drawn into this peaceful and dreamy realm.
The drums are strong, but never overpowering on Unrecognized and there is a charming mix with ambient sounds and solo acoustic guitar. The largely instrumental Unserious has a stately piano backdrop with woodwinds and soft percussion. Clear Sighing is a short instrumental percussion and woodwind link leading into the vocally and instrumentally beautiful Remember Sweet (with one of my favorite touches…a background of pin-piano during the choruses). I Let Me In has a rhythmically languid, but swaying vibe.
The standout piece on this album for me is Orange and Pink. Acoustic guitar, mallet-struck percussion and piano start with lightly teasing interplay until Ola and Johnny’s vocals feather into the mix and then yield to a hovering piano counterpoint before fading—it’s simply gorgeous. The album closes with the soft anthem Walking Up Dandelions, a combination of many of the sounds throughout the album.
While the arrangements are relatively simple throughout, the layering of the instruments, vocals and ambient surroundings give the album a lush quality. My only wish?—that a lyrics sheet were included. Other than that, this album is just wonderful.
Tectonic Plates Video: