With Cervantine, A Hawk and a Hacksaw have created their 5th studio album and, arguably, their best. A move away from The Leaf Label has allowed the duo of Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost to release this album on their own L.M. Duplication label. However before we progress any further, I should explain a little more about the abstract nature of A Hawk and a Hack Saw, for those who may not be so knowledgeable on their Balkan folk music.

Initially formed as a solo project, Jeremy Barnes (the drummer from Neutral Milk Hotel) released the first A Hawk and a Hacksaw album to critical acclaim. As time progressed, he employed the help of the fantastically talented violinist Heather Trost to truly cement the Balkan folk sound that AHAAH would come to pioneer for the mainstream audience. A sound created by the erratic yet cleverly orchestrated combination of percussion, brass and strings; this largely instrumental duo can also be thanked for the discovery of Beirut.

The name of this album, Cervantine, comes from the author of Don Quixote, Miguel De Cervantes. Moreover, the band's name is a reference to a moment in Don Quixote when Cervantes compares a hawk and a handsaw in terms of remaining honest and self-aware. However hand saw was changed to hacksaw as to reference the Aksak meter that is very prevalent in Balkan music. Background story over, we can approach the album.

Beginning with the eight minute epic, 'No Rest For the Wicked', the listener is led to believe that it's business as usual for AHAAH, with the sound remaining up tempo and intensely folk. However there is a lull in the middle of the track which in many ways should signal the separation of the track in to two. Despite this, the lull crescendos back to a hearty climax that enthralls the listener and provokes images of beer halls erupting in spontaneous cheers. 'Mana Thelo Enan Andra' has a much more Asian feel, with a distinctive sitar sound that relaxes the listener into a much calmer state, only to be reawakened by the emphatic brass of 'Espanola Kolo'. Cervantine follows down a very similar brass enthused path, however is deployed with a much more regal sound, as if it were depicting the process of courtly love. So far so good for AHAAH's most recent attempt, harnessing their previously demonstrated talent while refining their sound to create various musical images.

As we move through to the latter half of the album, there is a brief return to the echoes of the sitar based Asian sound in 'Uskudar', which are focused around the same entrancing female vocals in 'Mana Thelo Enan Andra'. However you'd be forgiven for mistaking the next track, 'Lujtha Lassau', as a soundtrack from Band of Brothers. This is by no means a slight on AHAAH; instead the track provides a surprisingly welcome move away from the upbeat folk. Set entirely around melancholic violins, the track is addictively mournful, appealing to any one who may have an underlying hurt or source of pain that needs a musical echo. This is swiftly swept away as 'At the Vulturul Negru' reaffirms the dynamic upbeat folk that has mostly soaked through this fantastic album, before ending with 'The Loser (Xeftilis)', which remains strikingly upbeat while being undeniably stripped back to an acoustic level.

In many ways AHAAH's fifth album is their most professional and refined yet. It is certainly much more instrumental, which may not appeal to those folk lovers who enjoy indulgent lyrics. However this album, Cervantine, is a fantastic testament to the true origins and sounds of authentic folk, ranging from the Balkan, to the Asian, and to the Mexican, while maintaining a fine balance between the up beat and the calm.

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