Cock And Swan: Stash
Lost Tribe Sound

There's a relaxed, bedroom recording vibe to Cock and Swan's Stash that makes the group's fourth full-length all the more appealing. It's a melodically strong, thirteen-song collection from Johnny Goss and Ola Hungerford, who began their Cock and Swan journey in 2003 in—where else?—a tiny bedroom in Bothell, Washington using a Tascam 4-track. Apparently, the group's sound was once heavily synth-reliant but little of that remains on Stash. Instead, the recording has been largely stripped down to its acoustic essence. In certain moments, Cock and Swan could pass for a less child-like Múm—“Raging Chisel,” for example, exudes a sonically rich character that invites the comparison—though Hungerford's breathy, winsome vocal style instead, at times, suggest a less stylized Julee Cruise.

Autumnal in spirit, Cock and Swan's basic sound is straightforward enough, rooted as it is in an analog blend of vocals, guitars, piano, horns, and drums, but Goss and Hungerford have circumspectly embellished Stash's material by including contributions from a few others. A major reason for the album's appeal lies in its instrumental richness, and thus some major degree of credit for that must go to William Ryan Fritch (aka Vieo Abiungo), who adds cello, vibraphone, flute, sax, and marimba to the project. His clarinet, flute, and marimba playing on “Sneak Close,” “Stash,” and “Clearing Sigh,” respectively, elevate the material in wondrous ways, while “Remember Sweet” and “Orange and Pink” offer ideal encapsulations of the Cock and Swan sound, wedding as they do forlorn moods and fragile vocals with graceful instrumental arrangements.

One thing I'd prefer otherwise: the removal of the drumming, or at least having it featured less prominently in the mix. “Stash, for example, would function perfectly well without it in allowing the song's delicate acoustic sounds to be heard more clearly. It's hardly a damning weakness that undermines the project, however, but more an observation that Cock and Swan's music makes its strongest impression when presented in its least cluttered form.

April 2012