Album Reviews

Cock And Swan: Mashmallow Sunset

Cock And Swan

As we move through time, our bodies mature. In most cases, so do the capabilities our minds possess; we are able to piece together more and more complex puzzles, complete more difficult challenges and tasks that we or others require, and reach, hoping to accomplish, all those goals that once seemed so unfathomably far away. Within our minds, we are capable of progressing. Ideally, such a concept should also relate to music: the instrument holder advances in their ability to perform as well as construct. While this is not always the case, it is with Marshmallow Sunset, the sophomore release by Cock And Swan via their personal DIY label Dandelion Gold.

This is apparent as early as opener “Clay And Smallest Flower”, in which the mystical vocals of Ola Hungerford light up the speakers. The biggest change does not reside there, however, as her voice remains much what it was on Cock And Swan’s debut, Noon Hum—and it’s a trait that works well for the duo. Instead, the improvement that occurred most drastically between Noon Hum and Marshmallow Sunset can be found in the backing instrumentation. In “Clay And Smallest Flower”, one can hear it in the electronics, as well as the backing percussion, keys and guitar. While not entirely new (though appearing here on record for the first time), “Cumulondergarden” stands out as a phenomenal track where Cock And Swan swarm themselves with mellow electronic beats.

Once again Cock And Swan flicker between gems like “Tectonic Plates”, where Ola’s vocals (and clarinet) are light and dreamy and oh so catchy, and subdued instrumental tunes like “You Are What Grows”, which hones in on the electronic backdrop and front-facing instrumentation. These songs, like much of Noon Hum, maintain a resident darkness in them that allows the listener to easily slip into the stupor of a relaxing meditation. Yet songs like title track “Marshmallow Sunset” also contain a quicker, double-time percussion amidst the light and sometimes elongated instrumentation. In contrast, “Enjoy It All” takes a more minimal approach to percussion, heightening the hypnotic effects.

A major nod to the progression between the two albums can be given to Ola and Johnny’s willingness to collaborate. Here we find the two adding a few members. The same can be said for Dandelion Gold, whose cast of characters has grown tremendously since the early days of Noon Hum. These additions are most notable in “Walking Up Dandelions”, which finds the multiple characters joining Ola and Johnny on vocals during the rare chorus—the song has no verses.

Marshmallow Sunset closes with “Slow Down”, a tune that begins with Ola’s clarinets and airy vocals. After the climax of “Cumulondergarden”, the song acts, initially, as a perfect album cool-down. But the song grows to include subtle but heavy percussion (the mix may be low, but the focus on low pitched toms and bass drum are of epic proportion). Marshmallow Sunset again sets Cock And Swan apart from many Seattle artists, who sometimes of late seem to struggle on being truly creative. This album, like Noon Hum, stands out phenomenally.

Cock And Swan: Tectonic Plates [mp3]

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Marshmallow Sunset by Cock And Swan

Dandelion Gold [CD, 2008]

1. Clay And Smallest Flower
2. You Are What Grows
3. Tectonic Plates
4. Walking Up Dandelions
5. Marshmallow Sunset
6. Enjoy It All
7. Cumulondergadren
8. Slow Down

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