I last saw the New Mexico duo A Hawk And A Hacksaw at the Polish Club in Bristol in 2011 when they were supporting Dan Haywood’s New Hawks. It was an unforgettable night not just because I love their music (both bands) but the soundman on the night hadn’t got his act together and they couldn’t hear themselves play in the stage monitors. So, after some failed efforts to correct things A Hawk and a Hacksaw decided enough was enough and took their performance off the stage and to the floor where they played with everyone stood around them. It felt and sounded more authentic to the roots of the music they have collected and been influenced by on their journeys through Eastern Europe. I already had a lot of respect for Jeremy Barnes (former member of Neutral Milk Hotel) and violinist Heather Trost but on that night it took it all to another level. I fell in love with that music and still find it some of the most fascinating music to listen to…their latest release You Have Already Gone To The Other World serves that magic up in ladlefuls!
Last year we shared the news that Hawk and a Hacksaw were to present a brand new rescore of Soviet director Sergio Paradjanov’s classic film Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors. Paradjanov was something of a legend, this was his first major work but his visionary and poetic oeuvre was regarded as subversive by the Soviet authorities and he was frequently banned from filmmaking and imprisoned.
The 16 tracks on You Have Already Gone To The Other World are inspired by the film featuring original tracks alongside music from the Ukraine, Hungary and Romania. The album, not surprisingly, is very visual but incredibly upbeat and celebratory in the main. The opening slow burning Hungarian tune Open It, Rose is the perfect build up for what follows and features an atmospheric opening with strained trumpet, rustic echoing bells before Heather’s violin takes the lead. It sounds aged like your listening to an old forgotten recording heightened by an undercurrent of scrapes and other ambient sounds…it is like the portal to the album…a journey to a lost and forgotten word. The title track that follows is a mighty track by contrast and one you can in no way sit still to. The percussion throughout the album is pretty spectacular and driving, on Witch’s Theme it takes on the form of rapid step dancing whilst on Hora Pa Bataie it sets the break neck pace for an unforgettable Romanian dance tune.
The pace eases on several tracks, Bury Me in the Clothes I Was Married In has a mournful solemnity whilst the Hungarian song Nyisd Ki Rózsám is one of the most beautiful which emphasises that otherworldly sound that is always present throughout the album which is at its height on Marikam, Marikam with the strange Jews Harp effects lending a mysterious edge to it all. Despite being 16 tracks long and largely instrumental it flows so well I was surprised how quickly it passed, a reflection on how immersive this music really is.
Hawk and a Hacksaw never disappoint!