Review of A Hawk and A Hacksaw's album Delivrance.
'Delivrance' the fifth album orchestrated by a keen pair of open-minded artists and instrumentalists; Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost, a duo from Albuquerque, New Mexico who also form part of Beirut's backing band. Now I've followed these guys since their 2002 self-titled debut, which I caught up with in 2004 when it was re-issued by their current home The Leaf Label. They opened up my ears to the sounds and rhythms of the east, a world of sound I'd so far only encountered in taxis. Despite this, I felt they approached the arrangements from an indie-pop standpoint, which, for me, clouded the barebones eastern folk sound they were getting at. However, this notion of mine, rooted in whatever I thought I knew about music at the time was shattered by 2007's 'A Hawk and a Hacksaw and the Hun Hungar Ensemble'. This was the start of AHAAH's rooting their sound further into the east, adopting the traditional structures and not just the sounds. Lets see where they've gone with it now.
'Delivrance' opens with text book Balkan vibes, but it's deeper, darker than usual. The rhythm fades out and the sounds open to a much lighter place. This is A Hawk and A Hacksaw, the one we know anyway. One thing that strikes me straight away is how much tighter the rhythm section is. As if arranged electronically, they're not, but you know what I mean. Despite this the tradition, the indigenous feel remains unscathed. It's just more precise, to the point. As if these guys have found the full and unabashed confidence in their sound. This is echoed throughout the album with more intricate melodies and arrangements riddling Deliverance. Not long before vocals are thrown into the mix. Now, for me this has always kind of been a bug bear for me. I'm all for multifaceted folk with the appropriate vocal contribution, but there's always been something about AHAAH's vocal choices that haven't sat well with me. Dare I say it works better here. More apt. 'The Man Who Sold His Beard' might sound like a Bowie cover done by Weird Al Yankovic, but this is one of my favourite tracks. Rolling beat, sprawling jazz-esque horns, disjointed bass stabs. It's a wonderful journey that's like multiple songs working perfectly alongside one another. The momentum of this album is impressive for these guys. Consistently upbeat, rarely succumbing to the magnetism of the melancholy. Yet, when it does venture into the more downbeat, it's always interesting.
The choice of sounds.editing.the placement of each instrument has all been carefully thought about on Delivrance. A Hawk and A Hacksaw have navigated their convoy into by far their quirkiest selection of songs yet. They don't miss a trick. Fills in every nook and cranny, from probably more instruments than you could name off the top of your head. It's wonderfully heady stuff.
You know, I sit here listening to this, wondering how on earth I can feel I relate to music that's traditional and individual to so many parts of the world I've never even seen. Yet, irrespective of that fact, a fact a lot of share no doubt, I cant help but find myself whisked off to a new world. This album makes even going to the mini market round the corner from your house even seem like a whole new experience. Do yourselves a favour.
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