American folk duo A Hawk and A Hacksaw are back with a typically earnest and cerebral approach to music-making, with their latest album, 'Forest Bathing' riffing on the Japanese tradition of healing oneself by hanging out in the woods. This 10-track record weaves together ancient instruments, woodwind melodies and magical storytelling to soothing effect.
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Forest Bathing is a form of healing by basically hanging out in a forest. Nice. Can't see a forest out the window but next time I'm in one I'll bath in it and see if it sorts out my problems. A Hawk and a Hacksaw have long found inspiration through travel and this is no different on this their 7th LP. They seem to take bits and bats of inspiration from various musics of the world and apply it to their own sounds.
Opener 'Alexandria' is led by some form of hammered dulcimer whilst 'A Broken Road Lined With Polar Trees' is as evocative as it's title suggests with a complicated circular melody with some very heavy eastern influences. The Turkish and Baltic influences of their music are particularly strong on this record and the duo barely pay any mind to traditional Western song structure. The lovely wandering melody of 'The Shepherd Dogs Are Calling' is led by a kind of orchestra of horns (I'm too stupid to know what kind of instrument this is) but the melody rises and falls eventually settling on a lovely plaintive chord change.
At it's best the yearning quality that runs through A Hawk and a Hacksaw's music is here in spades and only the occasional piece is made up of sounds without an emotional impact for the listener. There's plenty of droning here, and serious beard scratching world music going on but on 'Banbyaga' the mood is lightened with a ridiculous comical piece of scraping melody that would be worthy of a Tom Waits or a Meadow House. It breaks the ice on music that can at times be seen as too high brow for its own good. Plenty to enjoy here though.
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