Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep: A Hawk and A Hacksaw (Leaf)

Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Hawk and A Hacksaw (Leaf)

Over the last couple of years I have noticed a certain trend devloping in music, especially in North America. Artists, these days seem more willing to experiment with their sound and explore avenues such as different cultures and backgrounds. Canadian bands like Arcade Fire and A Silver Mt Zion, in particular, seem to be influenced by music from their heritage as much as they are with contemporary sounds. One thing for certain, though, is it has made for exciting and invigorating listening.

Hot on the heels of Beirut's excellent "Gulag Orkestar" album, comes Leaf signees, A Hawk and A Hacksaw's 3rd album "The Way The Wind Blows". Much like "Gulag...", the music contained , is influenced by a a members recent travels around Eastern Europe, most notably Romania.

Alberquerque, New Mexico duo A Hawk and A Hacksaw (Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost) , in the past, created mostly instrumental music occasionally intercepting it with loud shouts and random singing.

For their 3rd release, they have seriously upped the ante, as it is chock full of expertly arranged instrumentation and hugely infectious singalong choruses, that pays homage to the music that influenced their travels.

I must admit, I thought Beirut had cornered the market of ethnic Eastern European music, but "The Way The Wind Blows" has manged to top it. Ironically, Beirut makes a guest appearence on this album too.

The songs contained on the album were partiallly recorded in the tiny Moldovan village of Zece Prajini. It combines traditional music from places as diverse as Hungary, Romania, Greece and Turkey with contemporary folk, pop and rock to stunning effect.

"The Way The Wind Blows", simply put, is one of the most exciting releases of the year and another victory for Leaf's ever impressive roster. It is the "sound of the old world made new again".

There is a staggering amount of instruments used here (violin, viola, trumpet, saxophone, tuba, cornet, accrodians, and evena euphonium). There are absolutely no guitars involved, that in itself is unique in today's climate.

Special mention must be given to the innovative collaboration with Romanian folk band, Fanfare Ciocarlia on "Fernado's Giamperi". In fact, the Fanfare musicians are dotted around on just about every track.

I cannot recommend this album highly enough, it has barely left my stereo since I recieved it. From the excellent album opener, "In The River" (mp3 below), through the toe-tapping brilliance of title track, "The Way The Wind Blows", this album is utterly sublime.

On "God Bless The Ottoman Empire" (one of the album's many highlights), almost comical sounding saxophone combines with a pounding drum rythmn, before an infectious vocal arrangement changes the tracks focus. It is extremely dififcult to get the melody out of your head, once it has lodged itself in there.

A Hawk and A Hacksaw are due to tour with Calexico and Beirut, in what must be one of the most exciting line-ups of the year. I am not sure if the band of Romanian musicians will travel too, but if they do, I guarentee they will go down a storm.

I am a massive advocate of the use of violin in rock music, its probably my favourite instrument. Heather Trost's playing here, only goes to strengthen my opinion. It is equal parts beautiful and sad. For hard eveidence check out the Trost-penned, "Waltz For Strings and Tuba" or the mournful "Oporto".

Again, Leaf have kindly donated an mp3 to this site. If you are only going to download one of them, make it this one. "In The River" contains just about every ingredient that makes A Hawk and A Hacksaw so special. The music is fantastically cultural, it is not a direct copy of the traditional ethnic pieces, but a gloriously updated version of it. Possibly album of the year!

Order this album here, while more tracks can be streamed here. Tour info can be found at their website. Its also worth pointing out that, Hawk member, Jeremy Barnes, goes into great detail about each track on "The Way The Wind Blows" here.

"In The River" mp3 - A Hawk and A Hacksaw


At 19 October, 2006, Blogger iworkatinitech said...

Great find...I was just reading about them...was sort of hoping to hear more from 'em too!

At 19 October, 2006, Anonymous OKCancel said...

I like this band and the new album, but it sometimes gets a bit too busy and frantic for me. I am totally smitten by the easter european influence on the folk/indie scene as of late, though, with Beirut, DeVotchKa and Matt Elliott (his new album at least) as the definite personal favourites. Beirut's Gulag Orkestar is still my #1 album of the year, while Elliott's Failing Songs isn't far behind.

At 19 October, 2006, Anonymous TheSadClown said...

Check out detektiv brian.

At 20 October, 2006, Blogger iworkatinitech said...

Wow that works...I just picked up three new leads on good albums! Muchas Gracias!

BTW - I couldn't agree more about Gulag Orkestar!


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