A Hawk and a Hacksaw embrace a darker, muted sound on their first new album in five years | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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A Hawk and a Hacksaw embrace a darker, muted sound on their first new album in five years

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Forest Bathing (LM Duplication) is the first album by Hawk and a Hacksaw, the Albuquerque duo of Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost, in five years. Since releasing 2013’s You Have Already Gone to the Other World—a project inspired by Soviet-era director Sergei Paradjanov’s 1964 film Shadows for Forgotten Ancestors—they’ve become more efficient in adapting the eastern-European and particularly Roma sounds that have provided their key influences for more than a decade. But though they’ve continued to travel and further cultivate their relationships with musicians from that region, the new recording, which contains ten original tracks, feels more insular than their previous efforts. Barnes, an ace accordionist, has expanded his instrumental arsenal with a variety of keyboards, the tapan drum, and the santur (a Persian hammer dulcimer), and while a number of guests including Turkish clarinetist Cüneyt Sepetci (who’s released two excellent albums for their LM Duplication imprint) enhance the album’s musical arrangements, the married couple handle most of the responsibilities themselves. That shift has muted the music’s rhythmic attack and timbre, but the process has also imbued it with a new deep melancholy. The Hammond chord organ that trudges through “A Broken Road Lined With Poplar Trees” and the unison lines sculpted by Trost’s violin and guest saxophonist Chris Ogden on “The Shepherd Dogs Are Calling” are pregnant with a sense of contemplation that reflects the Japanese self-healing practice of letting nature’s presence soothe and calm the soul that gave the album its title. There are some more extroverted tunes as well, such as “Babayaga” (about the hideous folkloric archetype who enjoys tripping children with her cane), which has Trost producing wonderful screeches on her violin. “The Washing Bear” evokes the sound of Balkan brass blowouts, with guest trumpet by Chicagoan Sam Johnson.   v

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