A Hawk And A Hacksaw + support
A Hawk and A Hacksaw began in 2000 in the small town of Saumur, France. Initially a solo vehicle for Neutral Milk Hotel drummer Jeremy Barnes, the main impetus of the project was to focus on the gray areas in borders of music and geography. The first album was released in 2002 by Cloud Recordings. Barnes met violinist Heather Trost in 2004 and the band became a duo. The pair has since released six albums, and toured extensively around the world. They have learned from and collaborated with some of the great musicians of Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. The duo has been invited to tour with Swans, Calexico, Wilco, Andrew Bird, Portishead, Of Montreal and performed at Roskilde, Pitchfork Music Fest, and All Tomorrow’s Parties. They also collaborated with Iggy Pop on the reworking of a classic sea shanty.
Forest Bathing, the new album, features ten original compositions. The Persian Santur, an ancient type of dulcimer struck by sticks, and played by Barnes, is a feature component along with Trost’s soaring and diving violin. The duo play nearly every instrument, but have some wonderful guest musicians on a few tracks- Turkish clarinetist Cüneyt Sepetçi, Hungarian cimbalom master Unger Balász, Chicago trumpeter Sam Johnson, who often tours with the group, Deerhoof guitarist John Dieterich, and New Mexico bassist Noah Martinez of the band Lone Piñon.
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. The 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 subtext of the song says: “The Merchant from Koprivshtitsa travels down to Alexandria to sell textiles. On the way back, he dreams of the music he heard there.”
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. If one were to listen to Forest Bathing with no knowledge of who the musicians were or where they came from, a variety of results certainly wouldn’t include two American musicians from Albuquerque, New Mexico. But it’s important to the band that you know where they are from.
A Hawk and A Hacksaw 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 an urban music. It’s rural; songs of the woods and roads where there are no sidewalks or street lamps to light your way. “A Broken Road lined with Poplar Trees” describes just this- the dirt from the summer sun, a melody from home on my tongue. The song “Babayaga” by Trost, is a tribute to the archetypal crone Babayaga, who sticks out her cane just as a child runs by… And “The Washing Bear” is a classic brass romp, connecting Serbian brass with it’s Southern brothers in Albania and Turkey…
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. “Forest Bathing” took a long time to record… and its genesis was spurred along by travels in Bulgaria, Albania, Turkey, Greece and Romania. The band will be back on the road in 2018 to support the album and hope to visit a forest near you.