Khoom Loy - Annbjorg Lien

Compass Records

Many developed cultures around the world have developed their own bowed take on the violin. Take for instance the Chinese erhu, the Gambian ritti or spike fiddle, the Arabic rebab, the Indian sarangi, the Japanese hana, not to mention the global variations on violin music like klezmer, gypsy Rom, Cajun, Celtic, mariachi and folkloric idioms from Britain to Scandinavia to Russia. Annbjørg Lien is an award-winning violinist from Norway; one sixth of the all-female fiddle ensemble, String Sisters. She’s also obviously a fan of fiddle-like styles from around the world. Her new album on Compass Records is called Khoom Loy, Thai for Paper Lanterns (in Thailand by the way, instrument variations on the violin are called Saw). Like an evening parade of paper lanterns, the selections on Khoom Loy are intricate, delicate, diverse and somehow magical – most definitely illuminating. From its opening moments, the disc transports the listener from the Norwegian fjords to the Middle East and back again, Lien’s fierce fiddling soaring on the wheels of a rockin’ rhythm section. Neatly, Lien contemporizes the traditions with electronic embellishments; tastefully understated and never overbearing. Another favorite, The Trapezian, creative as the instrumental’s title follows suit on the heels of Tareq, the first track. The title takes the form of a beautifully sung Celtic air. Listen close to what follows in the tracks ahead and you’ll hear elements of tabla, marimba, whistles and flamenco palmas over ever-changing rhythms of tribal, jazz and rock. There’s melody and enough darkness to let you know that Khoom Loy is born of Norwegian blood. Edgy, accessible and hugely innovative, Annbjørg Lien pioneers new possibilities for the future of global music, engineering sweet diversity from common strings.