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A Hawk And A Hacksaw

Forest Bathing

    Forest Bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, is a term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere.” It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.

    “Taking in the forest atmosphere” became the inspiration for A Hawk and A Hacksaw’s newest album. Their forest bath of choice is the Valle De Oro National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. This new album features ten original compositions by Heather Trost and Jeremy Barnes. The opening track “Alexandria” features Barnes on the Persian Santur, an ancient hammer struck dulcimer, and Trost’s string and woodwind melodies. The composition evokes the long trader’s route between what is now Bulgaria and the wealthy cities of Istanbul and Alexandria.

    The band has always had a bird’s eye view of this part the world— looking for the connections between places and even eras: a belief in the power of music to reach across borders and unite. The band is based on the idea of collecting music and inspiration through travel. They are not of a place, but their music evokes places along a route. This is not urban music. It’s rural: songs of the woods and roads where there are no sidewalks or street lamps to light your way.

    While the bulk of the music heard on this record is played by Barnes and Trost, they do have some incredible guest performances, namely the clarinet virtouso Cüneyt Sepetçi, from Istanbul, Hungarian cimbalom master Unger Balász, and closer to home, Chicago trumpeter Sam Johnson, Deerhoof’s John Dieterich and Noah Martinez, of the band Lone Piñon.

    Thor & Friends

    The Subversive Nature Of Kindness

      The Subversive Nature of Kindness is the sophomore effort from Thor & Friends, the avant-chamber ensemble formed by its namesake, polymath percussionist Thor Harris. The album was recorded in Albuquerque, New Mexico, produced by Jeremy Barnes from A Hawk & A Hacksaw and engineered by Barnes and Deerhoof’s John Dietrich. It is hoped that the melodic meditations offered up will ease some of the terror of living in these uncertain times.

      The three primary members of the band are Peggy Ghorbani on marimba, Sarah “Goat” Gautier on marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, organ, voice, mellotron and piano, and Harris on sundry percussion and wind instruments, including some of his own devising. The band has toured extensively over the past year and have performed live with many guest musicians. All these players have influenced the way the group hears its music and this had a significant impact on this new album. On this recording voice plays a more prominent role with the core trio being joined by several guest singers who provide wordless vocals: Stine Janvin Motland, an opera singer from Oslo, Norway; Michael Gira from Swans; Enrique Soriah, a throat singer from Oregon. It features more fully developed string arrangements by Barnes and Heather Trost. There are also contributions from similarly adventurous musicians including Jhno Delicateer on Armenian Duduk, violin improvisationist Aisha Burn, and Adam Torres, who provides finger-picked guitar.

      The band draws on classic Minimalist composers including Terry Riley and Steve Reich, but also amalgamateS such diverse influences as Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, Moondog and The Necks. They embody utopian optimism by rooting their art and operation in both improvisation and the involvement of neighbors and friends in their process, making use of what and who is around at any given moment. 

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      Lone Piñon is an acoustic trio from New Mexico whose music celebrates their region’s cultural roots. Using violin, accordion, guitar, guitarrón, upright bass and harmony vocals in Spanish, English, and Nahuatl, the group has revived and updated the Chicano string band style that once flourished in New Mexico, bringing a devoted and explosive musicianship to Northern New Mexican polkas and chotes, virtuosic Mexican huapango and son calentano, and classic borderlands conjunto. The musical landscape of New Mexico, like its culture, is beautiful and complicated. Lone Piñon is the first of their generation of musicians to embrace the full scope of that complexity. Onstage, they cluster around a single microphone and play with a fiery intensity, moving seamlessly through several dozen of the dance forms that resonate in their home state. The result is a new sound, rooted in a deep respect for the past and undeniably alive.

      “Lone Piñon is easily the best band in New Mexico right now. They have tapped into an almost forgotten vein of rich Chicano folk music, learning from some of the great elders of the tradition like Antonia Apodaca and revitalizing the Southwestern string trio with a wonderful virtuosity.” - Jeremy Barnes (A Hawk And A Hacksaw, Neutral Milk Hotel, New Mexico native).

      Improvisational collaboration between Deerhoof and A Hawk and A Hacksaw members John Dieterich and Jeremy Barnes began The Coral Casino as an attempt to understand one another. They met one day and the next they were in a blank room with unfamiliar instruments in their hands and zero expectations, each agreeing to do his utmost to ignore the other—to improvise in a rhythmic manner while not listening to what the other was doing. This idiosyncratic process proved to be the unlikely genesis of songs like “Special Questions,” “Sandwild” and “The Frost Pocket.” Their shared love of melody and pop provided the anchor for wild performances and deep, rich textures, laying the groundwork for many more moods: the euphoric “Out and About,” the stirring tribute to the satellite Philae (“Philae Lands on Comet 67p_ChuryumovGerasimenko”), the first satellite to land on a comet, and so on. Expansive, unafraid of complexity yet wide-eyed with elation, their sound embodies risk that genuinely rewards. While flirtations with danger and darkness occasionally appear, in the end everything becomes a laughing pile on the floor. An optimistic homage to a possible future, The Coral Casino is both childish and sophisticated, seemingly tossed off yet at the same time exhibiting a depth that reveals itself on each subsequent listen; an exploration of friendship and the pure joy of ecstatic communication. Take a trip to The Coral Casino: the perfect destination, where everything is topsy-turvy, no one is in control and yet all are mysteriously spirited to their beds before dawn.

      A Hawk and A Hacksaw, the duo of Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost, known for performing traditional and original music steeped in Eastern European folk traditions, present their sixth album You Have Already Gone to the Other World: Music Inspired by Paradjanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors.

      The sixteen tracks feature seven originals along with nine Ukrainian, Hungarian and Romanian traditional songs re-imagined and arranged with inspiration taken from the legendary 1964 film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Russian filmmaker Sergey Paradjanov. Taking their cues from the surreal folk magic of Forgotten Ancestors, Barnes (of Neutral Milk Hotel) and Trost (who lends vocals and violin on Josephine Foster’s latest album) began composing new music to perform along with the film and, in 2012, took the project on tour, accompanying the movie live in cinemas and theaters internationally.

      The new album is the product of those tours and the evolution of the music into something that can stand on its own. Produced by John Dieterich of Deerhoof, this is the first A Hawk and A Hacksaw album for some time to feature only its two primary members (with the exception of two tracks where Dietrich lends guitar) but the instrumentation is not minimal. Dieterich’s sense of musical experimentation has driven the group into new territories of folk psychedelia that explodes with rich ornamentation. It’s also the band’s most dynamic album since they began their Eastern European adventure, with the thundering percussion and dramatic arcs of violin on the title track counterpointed by majestic solo pieces for Persian Santur, and piano, stately organ-led processionals and original sound and melodies from the film woven throughout.


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