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A Hawk and a Hacksaw, "The Way the Wind Blows"

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On the third album from A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Jeremy Barnes has held to his word and touring member Heather Trost now joins him in the studio to make a superb collection of new tunes. It is not a break away from the previous releases but it is a continuation of a high quality back catalogue. The Way the Wind Blows hangs together better and feels more complete, especially with the addition of more odd instruments and even stronger arrangements.

 
Leaf

“In the River” opens the proceedings in style; it is reminiscent of last year’s Darkness at Noon album with its equal helpings of Ennio Morricone infused spaghetti western pomp and eastern European melancholy. Barnes’ vocals are pushed into the background which both obscures them and makes them sound like they are being beamed in from some far off place that is only read about in dusty books of travellers’ memoirs. One of those far off places turns out to be a remote village in Romania called Zece Prajini where Barnes and Trost relocated to in order to record The Way the Wind Blows (despite the distance from a proper recording studio the music has been captured with crystal clarity). The other far off place where they ventured isn’t even on the map. The same can be said of A Hawk and a Hacksaw’s music. You can narrow it down to a rough region of musical space but in the end it is an idiosyncrasy that cannot be pinned down. It’s not folk music in the traditional sense but like an amalgamation of feelings expressed through a handful of different musical dialects. The important point is that not only is it unique but it’s beautiful, especially on this album.

The Way the Wind Blows doesn’t see A Hawk and a Hacksaw changing their now cemented style but it does see them refining and expanding it. It is little details and additions that really add so much to their music. On “God Bless the Ottoman Empire” there is a Turkish wind instrument (unfortunately I’m unable to identify it) used with heaps of skill and to great effect. Trost’s violin is used far more sparingly than expected but when it is present it is invariable beautiful such as on the brief “Oporto.” Another notable thing about this album is less use of vocals. There are vocals but most of the time they are short phrases used to augment the music. I wouldn’t have minded more songs as the pieces I like most by A Hawk and a Hacksaw tend to be the songs. Barnes has a great voice and his lyrics are generally splendid as evidenced by the line (delivered in the most pacifistic tone possible): "You cannot govern the world, fuck off."

I hope they follow up this release promptly as with each album they are becoming more and more solid. The music sounds even more intuitive than before, nothing sounds like it was written but snatched from the air, the results depending on “The Way the Wind Blows.” Judging from the CD I’m listening to now, the wind blew in the right direction.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 08 October 2006 02:11  


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