ADVERTISEMENT
Album of the Month

Album of the Month: ‘Secret Angles’ by Cock & Swan

Cock and Swan, Secret Angles, Hush Hush

Cock and Swan, Secret Angles, Hush HushThose teenaged savants who make musical magic on the 4-track in the bedroom? Cock & Swan is what happens when they grow up.

Johnny Goss and Ola Hungerford started making music in 2003 on a Tascam recorder in Bothell. Since then, the duo relocated to West Seattle and graduated to a lushly hi-fi, intricately layered sound. They retain some of the experimental spirit and overdriven, tape-saturated grittiness of earlier days, which they nod to with the cassette deck boot-up that opens their third album, Secret Angles. This is the chief tension of Cock & Swan—polished dreaminess with an undercurrent of raw and weird—and what makes Secret Angles such an enduring, interesting listen.

“Following” opens with tastefully sparse guitar flourishes, cushions of meandering synths and driving but contained bass/drum arrangements. It’s more swan than cock—perhaps the tamest of the 12 tracks—but it introduces Goss’ complex melodies, which modulate from bar to bar, and Hungerford’s ethereal vocal delivery, which privileges mood over articulation. The cock side becomes apparent in “Secret Angles,” with rasping pads of noise, skittering handclaps and a final 30 seconds of synth stabs and short bass phrases reversed and repeated. The second track also showcases Goss’ compositional confidence, with a deftly executed shift in BPM mid-song and back again.

“Animal Totem,” the album’s lead single, stretches a delicate, shifting twilight well beyond the five-minute mark. “Night Valley” is “Animal Totem” at midnight under a full moon: Goss takes the same breathy vocal samples of “Totem” and tweaks the Tascam’s pitch control knob, mangling them into a haunting, almost animalistic groan. Meanwhile, steady drums give way to a lopsided chaos of floor toms and snares. The elements somehow congeal halfway through, so that by the track’s end the emergence of a barely-processed clarinet actually makes sense. Easily one of the record’s highlights, “Night Valley” exemplifies Secret Angles’ understated flair for references to itself, for stashing Easter eggs throughout to be revealed by multiple listenings.

On the second half of the album, the duo cops to their influences: the detached vocal delivery, jazz-indebted percussion, analog synths and funky bassline of “Inner Portal” smack of Stereolab, while “Melt Down” imports the detuned hardware of early Boards of Canada. Brief interludes intersperse these closing tracks, offering more clever self-reconstructions to decode.

The album artwork for Secret Angles features cryptic glyphs and distorted photography and strikes a handsome profile. (Previous Cock & Swan albums are available as hand-stitched cloth-bound books lined with banana bark, lokta and mulberry paper.) The music within—richly detailed yet spacious, cerebral yet moody—merits the attention its packaging beckons.

Secret Angles comes out Sept. 10 via Hush Hush Records. For more info, see cockandswan.com.

Photo by Angel Ceballos

ADVERTISEMENT