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A Hawk And A Hacksaw was conceived and performed by genre-defying one-man orchestra Jeremy Barnes of Bablicon and Neutral Milk Hotel. The album features intricate piano-based compositions layered with accordion, percussion, horns, bells, a chicken, geese, gongs, cats, a duck, spoons, and pieces of tin. It was recorded over the course of 15 months in the Loire Valley (Saumur, France) with a variety of guest performers. Recalling Kurt Weill’s orchestrations, Carl Stalling’s visionary cartoon soundtracks and Tom Waits’s more whimsical works, Barnes creates a playfully gothic atmosphere with his multi-layered, frantic compositions. Mixing field recordings with accordion, piano and bursts of drunken choruses, he generates a singular and unnerving orchestral whole. A song’s direction can hinge on a dog’s bark or a phone ringing, while cacophony and sweet, hymn-like harmonies cohabit in entertainingly unexpected passages. Influenced by everything from Eastern European folk music to Pierre Schaeffer to Spike Jones & His City Slickers, there’s a healthy disregard for boundaries at play. A Hawk And A Hacksaw is a soundtrack for PT Barnum deceits and backwoods carnivals, top hats and curly moustaches, but maybe gone a little more screwy. What’s more, everything is live-to-tape.