Over the last couple of years A Hawk And A Hacksaw have toured their live soundtrack to Soviet filmmaker Sergei Parajanov’s 1965 arthouse classic Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors around Europe. They were the perfect band to provide such a musical accompaniment, the film’s rich representation of Ukrainian life finding a strange parallel in Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost’s Eastern European-inspired music of the last decade. Almost half a century may have elapsed between the release of the film and this album, but there’s evidence of shared artistic approaches at play, both parties occupying positions on the edges of their respective fields.
In an interview with musicOMH in 2011, Barnes spoke of how he first became interested in the music of Eastern Europe, finding an album of Romanian music in a charity shop whilst living in the Ukrainian district of Chicago. You Have Already Gone To The Other World feels like their deepest immersion into this musical world to date. It consists of versions of pieces featured in the original soundtrack alongside songs inspired by the film, and as a whole it works remarkably well.
This is largely down to the dynamic variance of the album which projects a strong cinematic feel (even if the album was not associated with the film the flow of pieces would suggest it as suitable arthouse film soundtrack material).
Released on their own label LM Dupli-cation, and with John Dieterich of Deerhoof on production duties, it sees them take a small step away from their previous collaborative style of working (they have previously worked with Fanfare Ciocarlia and The Hun Hangár Ensemble). Dieterich does provide some guitar but their core sound is unchanged – Barnes on accordion and Trost on violin – and long term fans will be pleased to learn that their signature energy and vibrancy has not been compromised in any way. The title track proves this emphatically, the clattering percussion and explosive projections of colour getting things off to a searing start. A rambunctious vitality surges through the faster paced tracks, a perception heightened by the fact that many of them come directly after quieter, or vocal-based pieces.
Wedding Theme has a swaying, massed vocal melody, but is followed immediately by the intensely wrought, manic charge of Dance Melodies From Bihor County. Similarly, the frenetic conflagration of Invartita Din Blaj comes directly after the relative lull and contemplation of Where No Horse Neighs And No Crow Flies.
Bury Me In The Clothes I was Married In has a similarly reflective feel to it, whilst female vocals also reappear on Nyisd Ki Rozsam and Marikam, Marikam. The faster pieces do have the edge however, particularly well-demonstrated by the upwardly spiralling violin of Hora Pa Bataei and sustained drive of Horses Of Fire Rachenitsa.
The music of Eastern Europe has gained greater prominence over recent years, finding attentive audiences within alternative-rock circles. A Hawk And A Hacksaw may not be as hip or name-checkable as the likes of Beirut or Devotchka, nor have quite the crossover appeal of gypsy-punks Gogol Bordello, but the liberated, enlivened music on You Have Already Gone To The Other World proves they are still one of the genre’s indispensable players.