Gig review: A Hawk And A Hacksaw at Howard Assembly Room, Leeds

At some indefinable point during A Hawk And A Hacksaw's set, Heather Trost's violin starts to make the self-same sound as a nest of peeved wasps.

A Hawk and a Hacksaw at Howard Assembly Room, Leeds

It could be the moment she shifts her playing up a gear. Or it could be when she introduces the technique of tugging on a loose string to create a jagged noise.

Either way, it’s a sound that Jeremy Barnes had been trying to perfect earlier in the set on a hammered dulcimer. On the opening track the instrument had produced a warm, atmospheric tone that conjured images of sun-baked landscapes and Middle Eastern souks. As his strikes sped up, however, it sounded increasingly like whirring insect wings.

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He switches to accordion before the wasps really start to sting, the music concurrently taking on the eastern European influence for which the New Mexico duo have made their name over the last 14 years.

A Hawk and a Hacksaw at Howard Assembly Room, Leeds

Here there’s traditional Hungarian track ‘Marikam, Marikam’, on which Trost reveals an unexpectedly sweet voice during the acapella opening verse, and ‘I Am Not A Gambling Man’, on which Barnes takes the alternately sombre and jaunty lead vocal. These add variety to a set that’s otherwise largely composed of instrumentals, the tracks often blurring into one another despite the variety of tempos and moods.

They do nonetheless close on a particularly sinister note, with Barnes pounding on upright drum while Trost creates a white noise from which it takes more than a reflective encore for the audience’s ears to recover.

A Hawk and a Hacksaw at Howard Assembly Room, Leeds