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Music / A Hawk and a Hacksaw

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Very, very old-fashioned.
So, the drummer from Neutral Milk Hotel started his own band, and it ended up even weirder...

A Hawk and a Hacksaw is a folk music ensemble. Though based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, their music mixes and matches from a variety of traditions, including Balkan, Turkish, Romani, Klezmer, and Mariachi. Most of their songs are instrumentals.

The only permanent members are Jeremy Barnes (accordion, percussion) and Heather Trost (violin, viola). Their musical collaborators include the brass band Fanfare Ciocărlia, the Hun Hangár Ensemble, Ferenc Kovacs, Balazs Ungar, Kálmán Balogh, and Chris and Stephanie Hladowsky.

  • A Hawk and a Hacksaw (2002)
  • Darkness at Noon (2005)
  • The Way the Wind Blows (2006)
  • A Hawk and a Hacksaw and the Hun Hangár Ensemble EP (2007)
  • Délivrance (2009)
  • Cervantine (2011)
  • You Have Already Gone to the Other World: Music Inspired by Paradjanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (2013)

Barnes and Trost also played on Beirut's debut album Gulag Orkestar (2006).


Provides examples of:

  • Bookends: On The Way the Wind Blows, the closing track "There is a River in Galisteo" is a shortened reprise of the opening track "In the River".
  • Double-Meaning Title: The band name references Aksak (a meter common in Balkan and Turkish music) and the phrase "a hawk and a handsaw" (which originates from Hamlet, but came to Jeremy Barnes by way of one particular translation of Don Quixote).
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The self-titled album had a stronger American folk influence, and prominent tape-stutter noises. Basically, it was a missing link between the alternative rock of Neutral Milk Hotel and the Balkan folk that dominated AHAAH's subsequent albums.
  • Evil Laugh: At the end of "Open It, Rose".
  • Epic Rocking: The 8 minute "No Rest for the Wicked", and the 7 minute "Laughter in the Dark".
  • Fading into the Next Song:
    • Every song on Darkness at Noon fades into the next and/or prior song. There are eleven songs on the album and only four hard breaks.
    • From The Way the Wind Blows: “Song for Joseph” -> “Fernando’s Giampari”. Then “Waltz for Strings and Tuba” -> “Oporto” -> “Gadje Sirba” -> “The Sparrow” -> “Salt Water” -> “There Is a River in Galisteo”.
    • All over the place in You Have Already Gone to the Other World.
  • Fairy Tale: "Vasilisa Carries a Flaming Skull Through the Forest" is a scene taken directly from the Russian fairy tale Vasilisa The Beautiful.
  • I Am the Band: Jeremy Barnes was initially the sole member of the band.
  • In the Style of...: They recorded "Foni Tu Argile"—a traditional Rembetika song (i.e. performed by a Greek string band)—with a brass band.
  • LARP: The "Cervantine" music video depicts an epic LARP battle.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Okay, maybe it's a bit of a stretch to call Barnes a pop star. Anyway, the self-titled album was used as a soundtrack for the documentary film Zizek! The album You Have Already Gone to the Other World originated from their original soundtrack for Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (performed for live screenings starting in 2011).
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Although if you're not already familiar with the styles in question, they blend together and just sound "foreign".
  • Protest Song: "Portland Town".
  • Sampling: You Have Already Gone to the Other World uses clips from the film (and on one track, "an unknown Hungarian 78 [rpm record]"). Mostly they're snippets of dialogue, but a few feature singing, and AHAAH simply provides backing music for them.
  • Shaped Like Itself: The opening lines of “In the River” are “May you live every day of your life.”
  • Single Stanza Song: "Laughter in the Dark", "For Slavoj".
  • Studio Chatter: Some non-English chatter in The Way the Wind Blows. At the end of “Song for Joseph”, then between “Oporto” and “Gadje Sirba”.
  • Take That!: Slavoj Zizek (the subject of the aforementioned documentary, Zizek!) is a philosopher who believes that love is evil. The only lyrics of the song "For Slavoj" are the repeated stanza "I love you".
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Kertész", "I Am Not a Gambling Man".


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