8:00pm - Pillars and Tongues
8:40pm - Dark Dark Dark
9:45pm - AHAAH
A Hawk and A Hacksaw
A broomstick and duct tape. That is what the curious Americans used for a mic stand. In a humble house with no running water deep in the Romanian hinterland, they were recording with Fanfare Ciocarlia, one of the worldrsquo;s top brass bands. A Hawk and A Hacksaw have also found themselves playing with Roma on the streets of Amsterdam and out on the Jaffa road, performing to both Hassids and Palestinians; in a sculptorrsquo;s tree house outside of Budapest; and at a Jewish wedding in Pittsburgh where a young boy stared transfixed at the band, ignoring the party revelers, untilmdash;with no explanationmdash;tears streamed down his face.
Check out the music that ilicited such emotion as A Hawk and a Hacksaw tour the US starting in late July in Santa Fe, wending through the Midwest to the east coast, hitting Chicago, St. Louis, Baltimore, New York, and a stop in Asbury Park for All Tomorrowrsquo;s Parties.
On first glance, the desert mountains of New Mexico donrsquo;t seem like an obvious home for a band that specializes in its own blend of music from the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, and Romania. But there is more to the connection than the untrained eye can see. On the albumrsquo;s title track, the group explores the mariachi influence on Romany brass that flourished thanks to the Latin American soap operas popular across Eastern Europe. ldquo;Europeans inspired Mexican brass and now Mexican brass inspired Europeans,rdquo; says band founder, accordionist, and percussionist Jeremy Barnes. ldquo;In New Mexico, we grew up hearing all this brass music, hearing mariachis.rdquo;
There is something connecting what may seem like distant points on the map: The Balkans and New Mexico, thanks to an odd tie Barnes and band mate and violinist Heather Trost felt on their travels. ldquo;Northern New Mexico is a beautiful ecosystem of cultural clashes and mixings, that really remind us of the Balkans and Transylvania,rdquo; says Trost. ldquo;There are very few lsquo;cultural climatesrsquo; like this in the world, and I think it's something we try to reflect in our songs.rdquo;
Whereas other American groups are simply ldquo;from the U.S.,rdquo; when AHAAH tour in Europe, they are often promoted as being from New Mexico. Many Europeans think that New Mexico is its own nation, and sometimes I wish it was. It often feels that way,rdquo; says Barnes.
While the music comes off sounding rooted and traditional, the treatments simultaneously evoke specific places while bending time. AHAAH uses an old two-track recorder to give their recordings a timelessness; suggesting a historic feel deep in memory, even though the compositions are new or arranged in entirely new ways.
The piece titled ldquo;Espantilde;ola Kolordquo; evokes the kolo, or ldquo;circle,rdquo; the national dance of the former Yugoslavia, with the ambience of a New Mexico town. ldquo;Itrsquo;s an area with a bad reputation,rdquo; says Barnes. But beyond that faccedil;ade is a town and river valley with a completely unique culture. There are lots of low riders and they are proud of their identity.nbsp; ldquo;Many New Mexicans are afraid to visit Espantilde;ola, just as many Europeans wonrsquo;t go to Serbia. I thought we should pay homage to the good that comes from both places,rdquo; says Barnes.nbsp; ldquo;A lot of these Serbian songs have completely Mexican melodies over the top of a kolo. Sometimes we get the reaction lsquo;Yoursquo;re from New Mexico; what are you doing playing this music from Eastern Europe?!rsquo; But there is a connection to be maderdquo;.
Pillars and Tongues
Once based entirely in Chicago, and now in near-constant motion, PILLARS AND TONGUES is a formidable force, large and looming, whose musical pursuits defy genre categorization. The ongoing result of these pursuits has been called, variously, "holy" and "sexy" and it may well be the tension between these two concepts which lights the fire under (over?) Pillars and Tongues. Think on those things which are so beautiful they become obscene.
Speaking literally, the trio makes extended use of the human voice, violin, double bass, drums, bells and organs. The music is perhaps distinctly American in both its affair with American forms and its refusal to adhere to them at all. Heavily melodic, rolling, desert drones permeate the music of Pillars and Tongues, rendering the listener captive to deeply hypnotic vibes punctuated by heavy, danceable and almost tribal, rhythms. "Itrsquo;s difficult to talk about influences or genres with Pillars and Tongues, and almost as hard to talk about their sound" writes Jason Crock for Pitchfork. This is evident, as the band has drawn comparisons to everything from Dead Can Dance and Peter Gabriel to Godspeed you! Black Emperor to Arvo Pauml;rt to John Fahey.
Dark Dark Dark
Listeners everywhere are having a very emotional response to Dark Dark Dark's music.nbsp; Their sophomore album, titled Wild Go, is ambitious and layered, welcoming and familiar, and reminds us to seek out the wonder and magic that surround us all the time. Their sound sets Nona Marie Invie's soaring, haunted voice against an array of traditional instruments, balancing folk and high-art, creating music that is making people crazy.
The 10-song collection is a marked evolution for the group, which began in 2006 as a collaboration between Minneapolis based musicians Nona Marie Invie and Marshall LaCount. These two songwriters bring together disparate influences including minimalism, New Orleans jazz, Americana, Eastern European folk, and pop. Using stark contrast in texture, tone and imagery, the band has expanded and redefined their sound for the new album.
Wild Go's first single "Daydreaming" features Invie's warm voice and piano supported by spare, clean drums, guitar with lush reverb, cascades of dirty, distorted banjo, and an accordion wandering through the harmonies. The landscape created by the instruments reflects the one traveled by Invie - "I've been touring for so long now ndash; and it's been great," she says, "but I have this internal conflict between having a nomadic lifestyle and needing a home."
In the studio the band worked with producer Tom Herbers (a Minneapolis stalwart known for his credits with the Jayhawks, Low, and Soul Asylum), recording live to tape at three different Minneapolis locations, including a renovated church/studio and an old theater. Of all the influences on Wild Go, perhaps the greatest is their dedication to live performance and touring, where many of Dark Dark Dark's songs first come to life. Playing together, the band lifts Invie and LaCount's songs to another level.