On his second release as A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeremy Barnes continues to play the antique card, now focusing on the "ompah" accordion sound of an 18th century European village, as opposed to the Reconstruction-era American village of his previous effort. Of course, just because Barnes evokes a certain time and place doesn't mean his hectic musical ear stays in that one place, hence the squeezebox that morphs into a battery of bagpipes on the highly cinematic opener, "Laughter in the Dark." There's also room for a prideful horn that echoes the work of Ennio Morricone and the constant pitter-patter of castanets and marching snares that ensure that the solemn moments like "For Slavoj" and "Europa" don't stay that way for too long. The other notable change from the self-titled debut is the absence of digital interference. On the first album, Barnes threw his vintage sounds into a modern wormhole with much sampler stutter. On Darkness at Noon, he keeps the computerization well in the back, invisible to the ears. Or perhaps the ten-deep list of musicians on the CD sleeve means it was a full battalion of players tapping, blowing, squeezing, and strumming away all at once. Imagine that.
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AllMusic Review by Joshua Glazer