Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Hawk and A Hacksaw - Cervantine (2011)

Heather Trost and Jeremy Barns are no strangers, Heather formerly of the band FOMA and Barnes the former drummer of critically acclaimed band Neutral Milk Hotel, no need to say how big Barnes is in the music world, they’re also responsible on discovering, collaborating and putting on the music map a kid named Zach Condon, also known as non other than Beirut.

With only these references, there’s no need to say how much I expected this LP and how badly I love this band, while a lot of bands of the same scene tend to change the sound, they stick to the Balkan, Turkish and Eastern European sounds and the not compromising sound to a certain ethnicity in particular, each song is rich in influences, experimental and not over the top.

The relevance of this LP is that is the first one they do out of Leaf Records, that was their record label since the beginning, and the reason is that they decided to embark in the adventure of starting their new label called L.M. Dupli-Cations.

In this LP most songs are instrumental, but the focus turns to Stephanie Hladowski voice in the song “Mana Thelo Enan Andra” beautifully executed with Greek musical inspiration remembering the richness of the mix of cultures of the area, and also the more intentional reference to Turkish music in the song “Üskudar”, that mixes earthy sounds with a busy percussion and the perfect mix of nimble strings that go along side with the vocals and a tuba setting the sentiment in the foundations of the song.

The production is impeccable, and some songs mix a cinematic playing with the distance of the instrumentation, in “Cervantine” the strings back out to allow a protagonist lead to the wind instruments and the Arabic Percussion. But nothing sets a romantic landscape like “Lazslo Lassú”, an instrumental piece with accordion and violin that steal the attention of the listener with a crying melody.

This LP is a class act of what A Hawk and A Hacksaw are all about; it has both, sorrow and a playful nature, and ad interesting changes on the production, managing and mixing the sound in familiar ways but with what seems a more oriented purpose, previous releases were a mix of experiences and collaborations that reflect the idea of travels and ethnicity growing together in a jam session, but this time around the spirit is still there but the demonstration is that there is now a path followed and the sound has rested in what becomes a distinctive sound of A Hawk and A Hacksaw.

Being a fan of Beirut for some years now, I loved how they contributed to the sound of “Gulag Orkestar”, and their own records shared a lot of these sounds, but this time around it seems like they’re really reaching for a produced identity that doesn’t show the parade of experience they’re having in their travels, but shows the path that has been already followed, this is by far the most mature album they’ve made, no longer showing their past influences and experimentations of playful and messy nature, but really accomplishing a sound of their own in a very beautiful way.

Miguel de Cervantes would've been proud.


1. No Rest For the Wicked
2. Mana Thelo Enan Andra
3. Espanola Kolo
4. Cervantine
5. Üskudar
6. Lazslo Lassú
7. At the Vulturul Negru
8. The Loser (Xeftilis)

Rate: 8.3/10

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