The market for avant-garde klezmer-mariachi-accordion-and-trumpet instrumental freak-outs is very small. It is important that Jeremy Barnes, the founder/musical overseer of A Hawk and a Hacksaw, realizes this soon. Darkness at Noon, Hacksaw’s second album, is touted for its wide and eclectic geographical and cultural influences — it was recorded in both a British and an Albuquerque, New Mexico dance studio. But rather than a sense of space and exoticism, Darkness at Noon, with constantly shifting instruments and experimental compositions, is more carnival claustrophobia than world tour.
The Middle-Eastern funeral dirge “Laughter in the Dark” is an impressive opener in the vein of Sketches of Spain-era Miles Davis, but it’s followed by meandering self-indulgence and stifling over-repetition. The demented Beatles-esque fairy tale “Portlandtown” — a Derroll Adams cover, itself covered by Woody Guthrie — is a hidden gem. Here’s hoping Barnes gets out from under the big top and realizes that, too.