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Annbjørg Lien — Baba Yaga
(NorthSide NSD6044, 2000, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2001-03-01

Baba Yaga Cover artThe Hardanger fiddle of Norway is traditionally played as a solo instrument, but Annbjørg Lien, one of the more famous exponents of the instrument, here presents it in the setting of an augmented rock band. This is her third solo album, her first for NorthSide (which has also released her acoustic band Bukkene Bruse). Like some of the other artists on NorthSide, she combines the traditional and the modern, but the result is not quite like anyone else’s. Rather than going to the electronic side, she strays more towards rock, and even a bit of progressive rock, courtesy in large part to the keyboards of Bjørn Ole Rasch, who favors organ and Minimoog over digital instruments. The arrangements, while based in large part on traditional sounding melodies, are wildly inventive, veering from acoustic moments where the distinctive sound of the Hardanger is accompanied only minimally, to powerful ensemble pieces with muscular drumming and what sounds like a cast of thousands. Take “Wackidoo” for example. It starts with some odd bagpipe noises and an acoustic guitar with echoing feedback mixed in the background. Then the fiddle comes in with a bouncy melody and the band joins in for a few times through. From out of the blue comes a Bach-by-way-of-Keith-Emerson pipe organ break building into a kind of fanfare for Minimoog. The fiddle and band finish it up, reprising the original melody with more emphasis. This kind of creativity, far from being unusual, is the norm on Baba Yaga. “Inoque” features African children singing, recorded by Annbjørg and Bjørn Ole while touring in Mozambique. The second part of “Ája” has some attention-grabbing drone singing from Ailo Gaup. Other wonderful and fascinating touches abound.

Filed under: New releases, Issue 21, 2000 releases

Related artist(s): Annbjørg Lien

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