A HAWK AND A HACKSAW: Délivrance (The Leaf Label)


Posted on May 7th 2009 12:52 am

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A Hawk And A Hacksaw: Délivrance

The Leaf Label 2009
10 Tracks. 37mins39secs

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From the origin of his project, former Neutral Milk Hotel drummer Jeremy Barnes has taken A Hawk And A Hacksaw progressively further Eastward, settling for Romania with his third album, The Way The Wind Blows, three years ago, and the following mini album, recorded with the Hun Hangár Ensemble, a group of Hungarian folk musicians. A couple, and a duo since The Way The Wind Blows, when violinist Heather Trost officially joined, A Hawk And A Hacksaw made the jump from their native Albuquerque, New Mexico, to relocate to the Hungarian capital, Budapest, in 2007. The pair consequently toured extensively with the Hun Hangár Ensemble.

Recorded last year in Budapest, with contributions from the Hun Hangár Ensemble and many other local musicians, Délivrance is once again an engaging patchwork of swirling sounds and melodies. In just under forty minutes, the pair create a soundtrack which, while not meant to stick to any traditional template, is a deeply evocative and intense journey. Once again, Barnes and Trost widen the scope of their music by incorporating elements sourced from various cultures, and alternate between traditional songs and home grown compositions. Some of the influences filtering here were collected during the band’s last tour. The album opens with the wonderfully lush Foni Tu Argile, sourced from Greek folklore and given a gipsy twist as the usual bouzouki makes way for accordions and violins.

On a number of tracks, this core set of instruments is augmented with a cimbalom, a traditional Hungarian instrument resembling a dulcimer and played with light wooden mallets. This adds to the lively orchestration by contributing a whirlwind-like layer. Melodies twist and turn into dizzy rounds, swirling ever faster into more complex and engaging compositions. This is particularly effective on Kertész, Hummingbirds or Turkiye, and while the latter two are instrumentals, the former also sees Barnes step up to the mic and sing, adopting a technique reminiscent of middle Eastern singers. On Vasilis Carries A Flaming Skull Through The Forest, the cimbalom is used to create a more abstract and minimal layer, played in the lower register, upon which the soaring sentimentality of the piece relies to progress. Elsewhere, it is the violin that assumes prime position, especially on the delicate and plaintive Raggle Taggle and on the closing Lassú.

A Hawk And A Hacksaw capture the inherent melancholy of Eastern music but never use this as an over-emotional string. This certainly shows the pair’s understanding and respect of the genres they touch upon. Totally immersed in the culture they wish to emulate, they are getting every closer to complete mimetic. The band’s work is without equivalent in Western contemporary music, and this album, while not feeling quite as visceral as the mini album that preceded it, is still a truly enchanting collection.


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