Over the past few years Jeremy Barnes, of the new Mexico-based duo A Hawk and A Hacksaw, has watched filmmaker Sergei Paradjanov’s influential 1964 Soviet film Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors more times than he can count -- likely hundreds of viewings. “To be honest, it infested my dreams” Barnes says, of the film that contributed to its director being labeled a dissident, “all that magic and folklore.”
It’s the kind of infestation that has led to more than just subconscious nighttime obsessions. It also led to the latest from the band he helms with multi-instrumentalist Heather Trost, an album called You Have Already Gone To the Other World. The record (out Apr. 2) furthers the ecstatic, cross-pollinated sound that the duo, which is steeped in Eastern European folk traditions, has mastered over the course of a decade.
The project began as a live score that the group took on the road in short bursts. But after time, Barnes says he realized that the film -- which explores the tensions between orthodox religion and paganism in Ukrainian village life -- was pushing the group into new directions in its songwriting. This was due, in part, to the influence of regional folk music from the Ukrainian Hutsul tribe that is already woven throughout the film. But it was also due to the director’s magical realism, and his visionary, psychedelic style.
Produced by John Dieterich of Deerhoof, the resulting record is a collection of updates to traditional tunes as well as originals from Barnes and Trost. The trance-like title track, a Barnes composition, is a driving, swirling dance with Persian santur and great bursts of metallic percussion. On the Hungarian song “Nyisd Ki Rozsam,” they beguile with a growled bowed bass, and a haunting vocal melody. And there’s also the striking incorporation of excerpts and references from the film, particularly the voices of children singing, as on “Ivan And Marichka/The Sorcerer,” a choir of voices on “Wedding Theme," and the otherworldly sound of jaw harp on "Marikam, Marikam."
Paradjanov, in Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors, looked back to folk magic of village life, while forging new, ultramodern paths in cinema. Barnes has said that he and Trost aim to do the same with their work. You Have Already Gone To the Other World is earthy and magical, yet has a kind of bursting freshness. It sees A Hawk And A Hacksaw pushing into new realms as a band as they comment on, provide accompaniment for, and at times gloriously eclipse their inspiration.
Gretta joined Soundcheck in 2010, having spent several years as a freelance radio documentary producer. Her stories on birders, fishermen, nurses, performance artists and even the Yale Whiffenpoofs have aired on a variety of outlets, from WNYC's Studio 360 to APM's The Story. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Brown University and studied radio production at The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. She was a cellist in the rock band Cursive from 2001-2005.