Hawk and a Hacksaw
“…like Beirut” was the bemused response several times when I tried to explain the new Hawk and a Hacksaw album playing on my stereo. No, actually, not like Beirut at all. Zach Condon only dipped his pinky toe into the music of Eastern Europe and even then he yoked it to more traditional Western Pop song structures. Hawk and a Hacksaw are a far more convincing prospect of Western musicians immersing themselves joyfully in foreign climes. They’ve been doing it since 2004’s self-titled album in varying lineups and forms — all coalescing around central members Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost — and the itinerant travelers even relocated full time to Budapest in 2007 to further expand upon the music of the A Hawk And A Hacksaw And The Hun Hangár Ensemble EP and to better absorb the sounds and vibes floating all around them. Barnes and Trost employ a score of backing musicians on the album, at times swelling their humble duo into a full-on orchestra conjuring up raucous flailing dances and marches like in buoyant opener “Foni tu Argile.”
Délivrance is a mix of wildly-taken liberties with traditional numbers reconfigured into full-on freaked out raveups and fully weird original numbers. The recordings are in turns visceral and low-fi and deliciously full and rich — but everything feels utterly live and organic with so many sympathetic nods and vamps and telepathic interplay between the players.
“Foni Tu Argile’s” tempo is punkishly lightspeed fast, almost sounding like the tape was accidentally sped up; the vibe is pure cartoony lunacy with the oompah accordion played as fast as early Napalm Death’s guitar lines. Ditto with “The Man Who Sold His Beard ” and “Hummingbirds.” It’s a dizzying effect, old-world musical sensibilities coming at you with grindcore velocity, and my foot taps manically. “I Am Not A Gambling Man” is a wonderfully-sauced tableau, slurring along unsteadily back and forth, with Barnes playing his role to the hilt, and violin and sharp organ commiserating with the trauma of hunting season canceled. “Zibiciu” is like hardcore punk done with an accordion, hell, a bunch of accordions in delightful unison. “Vasalisa Carries A Flaming Skull Through The Forest” starts out with a vaguely Middle-Eastern flair before losing its sea legs and collapsing into a melancholy haze — a gonzo mix of high comedy and creeping menace. Sorry, I don’t have the vocabulary to describe the various instruments. Demento woulda loved it.
Impossibly exotic and ecstatic and mad-eyed.
Leaf Label: www.theleaflabel.com