Less than a year since their third album The Way The Wind Blows, Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost return with a record billed as an EP. The titleless record comprises eight tracks – well enough to be considered as an album in its own right. A Hawk And A Hacksaw is this time supplemented by a group of experimental Hungarian folk musicians performing under the banner of The Hun Hangár Ensemble.
The physical release, limited to 4,000 copies, comes with a 20-minute DVD film exploring A Hawk And A Hacksaw’s touring across Europe. Both new compositions and arrangements of traditional klezmer melodies born out of Hungary, Romania and Serbia feature, and this bonus goes some way to educating the listener about the music on offer. Most tracks are studio recordings, but there’s also a live track, Romanian Hora And Bulgar, complete with appreciative audience whoops.
On first listen it’s immediately obvious that this is a sonically diverse record, using everything from ukelele to bouzouki, from cymbalom to Hungarian bagpipes. Trost is a one-woman string section, while Barnes variously wheels out accordion, glocks and drums. Beirut head honcho Zach Condon is again on hand for mandolin and trumpet duties. But, as with the duo’s previous work, it is devoid of vocals. This likely renders the record as good for background music as it is for close listening.
So why should you buy this record? In short, like the Alberquerque band’s other work, it opens ears to music beyond the standard western forms and offers a fascinating range of music-making possibilities. The emotional lamenting of Trost’s strings on Oriental Hora over Barnes’ tired waltz on accordion evoke nothing so much as the death of a French cafe owner, remembered by his international clientele, while Dudanotak’s mournful bagpipes, played by Bela Agoston, transcend east and west boundaries to present something recognisable to cultures well beyond its own.
Barnes’ willingness not just to copy and rerecord music from those cultures that inspire him, but also to collaborate with their exponents to craft something recognisably new, is the most striking reason for buying everything he makes. Short, sweet and captivating.