Originally a member of Neutral Milk Hotel, Jeremy Barnes has been releasing Eastern-European influenced music for over half a decade now under the name A Hawk And A Hacksaw. Continuing his prolific pace of the past couple years (his The Way The Wind Blows came out last year, and his fourth full-length is expected in the relatively near future) The Hun Hangar Ensemble EP finds him teaming up with four Hungarian multi-instrumentalists for this aptly-titled mini-album. Limited to 4,000 copies, the release is eight songs and thirty minutes of what you'd expect from Barnes, with a few new wrinkles.
In addition to being joined by The Hun Hangar Ensemble, Barnes has been added Heather Trost as a full-time member of A Hawk And A Hacksaw, and the sheer density of musicians has allowed for much more elaborate arrangements on several songs of this release. After starting out with a more stripped-down track, things really get going with "Zozobra," a spastic klezmer-sounding track that finds pumping accordion mingling with drums, bagpipes, glockenspiel and a breakneck arrangement that emphasizes melody and rhythm with see-sawing effect.
"Serbian Cõcek" finds the group interpreting a traditional song with a load of bright horn arrangements while "Romanian Hora And Bulgar" is sort of a two-part track that emphasizes melancholy strings before a rowdy finale. Mixing both styles and instrumentation (as well as recording formats, with some tracks recorded live while others are studio), this eight-song set is about as varied as they come. All the songs tie together relatively well due to their influences and origins, but there's everything from "Vajdaszentivány" (a solo glockenspiel track of traditional Hungarian melodies) to the bagpipe-laced "Dudanotak."
In addition to the CD, the release comes with a DVD featuring over twenty minutes of footage from tours of the group from the past couple years that mainly acts as sort of an introduction to their music. Because of the varied nature of the songs on the release, it's hard to tell where the group will go from here. The more layered tracks (with the Hun Hangar Ensemble) are the pieces that show the most promise, so hopefully the next album from the group takes full advantage of the even more hands on deck. As mentioned above, it's strictly limited, so fans will probably want to snag this one up soon.