(Grappa, 2003)

This unusual album is an example of what happens when musicians use instruments associated with folk music to make new music that defies genre. Tigerlily is a Norwegian quartet that makes original music by using Nordic bagpipes, Chinese moon guitar and other eclectic instruments. The vibe that Tigerlily creates is almost indescribable: at one moment it sounds as new as some track from the dance floor while at another moment it sounds as ancient as the skirling of the pipes.

Elisabeth Vatn handles bagpipes, harmonium and clarinet; Harald Skullerud plays drums, percussion and glockenspiel; Olav Torget contributes guitars, konting (a harp-lute from Senegal), bass, Chinese moon guitar and banjo; and Kare Chr. Vestrheim plays wurlitzer, harmonium, mellotron and bass. The first three band members also add wordless vocals from time to time. Vatn and Skullerud are also members of the idiosyncratic folk big band, Chateau Neuf.

The instruments summon echoes of the familiar, but these echoes serve only to tease as you try (and fail) to describe the music. With ambient tracks like "7.28," Tigerlily might come closest to new age, but listen to the banging percussion and soaring bagpipes on the hypnotic "Babylon" and think of techno. "Chinese Cooking" showcases the moon guitar, whose plucked notes harmonize with the bleat of the pipes in an unexpected yet apt way. "Sorgenfri 24" is for a slow lazy clarinet hinting at jazz. The percussion pretends to be finger snaps on "Lucky Luke" while the banjo plays with an upbeat tune. The most sweetly melodic track is "Daddy's Waltz," which almost seems out of place among its uncategorizable surroundings. The CD's finale, "Hall 2," is a bagpipe solo in a resonant space (whether an actual building or a trick of the studio is hard to tell) and is hair-raising in its unearthly, eerie sound.

In a setting like this, words like "traditional" and "modern" become meaningless. The bagpipes seem as electronic as the electric guitar. The voice of each instrument reverts to being a pure sound beyond classifications such as "digital" or "acoustic." The music is just music, without any of the concerns about authenticity that often bedevil the folk and roots genres. If this sort of thing is your cup of tea, grab Tigerlily. Anyone who loves interesting, original, creative music should enjoy this CD.

- Rambles
written by Jennifer Hanson
published 3 January 2004