A Hawk and a Hacksaw
You Have Already Gone to the Other World
LM Duplication (56 mins)
A trippy voyage into the Ukrainian netherworld
The New Mexico-based duo of Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost have spent the last year touring their live score for the 1964 Ukrainian film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Sergei Parajanov. Their new album is the product of those tours. Set in the Carpathian mountains of Ukraine, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is rich in pre-Christian European symbolism and folk magic, featuring scenes with traditional Hutsul rituals, a sorcerer and impressionistic images imagining a voyage to the afterlife with horses of fire. It was these dramatic themes that inspired A Hawk and a Hacksaw’s soundtrack and album You Have Already Gone to the Other World.
Of the 16 tracks, eight are original compositions and the others are a mix of tastefully re-imagined traditional Hungarian, Romanian and Ukrainian song. While previous Hawk and a Hacksaw recordings have featured a host of other musicians on a slew of various instruments, the new album is almost solely performed by primary band members Barnes, who plays accordion and santur lute, and Trost on violin – with producer John Dieterich of Deerhoof adding a few guitar cameos.
The music, however, is far from minimalistic. Rich, emotive melodies and churning rhythms dominate – from the lightning-fast ‘Witch’s Theme’ and galloping ‘Horses of Fire Rachenitsa’ to the gorgeous solo santur of ‘Where No Horse Neighs and No Crow Flies’ and the haunting vocals of the Hungarian ‘Nyisd Ki Rozsam’. This album is a thick, layered journey through the sounds and sensibilities of the Balkans, which needs no movie to help tell its story.
TRACK TO TRY: Witch’s Theme
This review originally appeared in Songlines #92 (June 2013) p71.