Annbjorg Lien,
Khoom Loy
(Compass, 2012)

Among Norway's best-known folk musicians, Annbjorg Lien plays keyed and Hardanger fiddle. On the ambitious Khoom Loy she, her band and a sizable number of guest artists fashion a broadly orchestral sound which from a base in the Scandinavian tradition expands to incorporate styles from Northern Europe and Asia.

It is not something a timid artist would attempt, though one easily imagines bolder ones whose reach fell short of grasp. Not here; Khoom Loy is thoroughly solid and admirable, asking only for an open ear and unclosed mind to unveil its pleasures. Its approach, it should be said, is not entirely original. Those versed in the current British folk revival will recognize the incorporation, in an appealingly organic manner, of compatible international elements.

Lien's fiddle leads the way, naturally, but a dizzying assembly of archaic and modern, even futuristic, instruments, from ram's horn and bamboo flute to tabla to plugged-in guitars to electronica, follows to populate the disc -- though, happily, not always at the same time. The album has its rustic-sounding moments. Others may cause one to think of a Norwegian Fairport Convention, and some are very much 2012. I like some cuts better than others, but nothing here is dislikable.

As an additional virtue, on the occasional song Lien rolls out a very fine singing voice. Though credited to Lien, the title piece sounds surprisingly like an especially striking Irish folk song. "Natten," adapted from a poem by Andre Bjerke, meanders from folk to pop arrangement but manages not to lose its direction.

All in all, this is music of a high order, of the sort that repays numerous listenings, each of them pleasurable.

music review by
Jerome Clark

17 November 2012

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