Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A HAWK AND A HACKSAW & THE HUN HANGÁR ENSEMBLE: A Hawk And A Hacksaw & The Hun Hangár Ensemble (The Leaf Label)

A HAWK AND A HACKSAW & THE HUN HANGÁR ENSEMBLE
A Hawk And A Hacksaw & The Hun Hangár Ensemble
DOCK47CDVD
The Leaf Label 2007
08 Tracks. 29mins20secs




Buy it: CD
A Hawk & A Hacksaw | The Leaf Label

Originally the solo project of former Neutral Milk Hotel drummer Jeremy Barnes, A Hack And A Hacksaw is a totally unique project, which has taken Barnes in a variety of locations across the world. Beside his previous regular spot as drummer with Neutral Milk Hotel, Barnes has also served with Bablicon, Bright Eyes and Broadcast. He started working on his next project, A Hawk And A Hacksaw, toward the beginning of the century, and released his first album in 2003.

Feeding on a vast set of influences, ranging from Eastern European traditional music to avant-garde and beyond, the first self-titled A Hawk And A Hacksaw album, recorded in the quiet town of Saumur, on the border of the Loire, in France, totally disregarded traditional musical boundaries to create an exhilarating soundtrack out of field recordings over which pianos, accordions and various other instruments flourished into beautiful melodies. The scope of Barnes’s music continued to expand with his second album, Darkness At Noon, released a year later. On The Way The Wind Blows, Barnes was joined by violinist Heather Trost, now an active AHAAH member. The pair worked with Romanian ensemble Fanfare Ciocârlia, a popular twelve-piece formation which combines traditional Romanian music with influences from the whole Balkan region and beyond. Toward the end of 2006, Trost and Barnes discovered Fonó, a music workshop and centre for Hungarian music in the heart of Budapest. They convinced four musicians they met there to form an ensemble. Barnes and Trost consequently recorded a mini album with the Hun Hangár Ensemble, and they are set to tour with them in the summer. This very limited eponymous recording comes with an additional DVD documenting the work of AHAAH over the last couple of years.

The eight tracks of this mini album partly draw from traditional Hungarian, Serbian, Romanian and Klezmer folklore, and also feature two new compositions from Barnes and Trost. The album opens with the soft melancholic tone of Trost’s violin cast against a piano and a cimbalom, a traditional Hungarian instrument similar to a dulcimer. The mood changes with Zozobra as an accordion first, then the crystalline sound of the cimbalom, hurry through a fast-paced rhythmic section with strong Romani overtones. After these, the formation goes on to perform a series of traditional music themes, ranging from the vibrant melody of Serbian Cǒcek, supported by a vivid brass section, to the rampant melancholy of Oriental Hora and the beautiful Hungarian bagpipes motifs of Dudanotak. At times, tracks encompass a wide range of moods in just a few moments. Both Romanian Hora And Bulgar and Ihabibi begin with very melancholic melodies before gathering pace and swelling into rich harmonics and pulsating rhythms.

The additional DVD provides a further insight into the evolution of a band like no other. Over the years, Barnes has defined a strong musical identity, and with Trost now a regular feature in AHAAH, he continues to refine it as the band becomes more essential with each release. This limited release is a resounding example of how traditional and contemporary can fit in beautifully, something that AHAAH have become quite expert at.

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