Tigerlily - Norway
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Grappa/Heilo, Norway (www.grappa.no)

cd cover One of the greatest strengths of the Monty Python comedy troupe was an openness to experimentation so extreme as to breed as much failure as success; a lot of their stuff simply wasn't funny, but fans took this in stride as a modest price for moments of genius. This self-titled recording from Norwegian trio Tigerlily shares this intrepid attitude, as well as the resulting high and low points. The instrumentation is itself challenging, Elisabeth Vatn's bagpipes and clarinets, Harald Skullerud's percussion, heavy on frame drums, and, above all, Olav Torget's plucked strings. Using banjo and such related instruments as Senegambian konting and Chinese moon guitar, Torget produces standout effects. The rapid tonal attack and equally meteoric retreat of these instruments lends a deceptive and charming naivet´┐Ż to melodies, and Torget simulates sustain at times with staccato picking.

Tigerlily is bracketed by "Hall 1" and "Hall 2," deep-reverb bagpipe noodlings suggestive of plaintive calls across fog-enshrouded mountains. On the long "Chinese Cooking," Chinese moon guitar dominates the main theme, the center a building, cumulative, jazzy rumination, dense percussion, banjo, and pipe wails in deep background. The most traditional Scandinavian tune on the recording, "Lucky Luke" is bouncy and fun with bagpipe lead, swinging slack percussion, and jazzy acoustic guitar embellishments. "Babylon" commences with ominous creaking wooden sounds and a plucked melodic figure, followed by thunderous common-time percussion and a simple, effective bagpipe melody, a central pluck-and-rattle freakout, and a final return to the vaguely Celtic pipe melody, the total effect refreshing and exciting. "Bannak" features a complex, staggered rhythm maintained by guitar, konting, and percussion, Vatn's bass clarinet and pipes adding melodic theme as the drama and intensity build, vocal chording psychedelically reminiscent of early King Crimson and MacDonald and Giles recordings. "Sorgenfri 24" maintains a dirge-like blues beat, Vatn's clarinet carrying a restrained, swinging melody, the effect more cool than dark.

The second track, "Radix," is one of those moments of genius that can justify an entire recording by itself. Shuffling jazzy percussion introduces Torget's wondrous konting, recorded with in-your-face presence, rattling of strings on wood resolving into a disorienting but perfectly timed plucked melody, booming frame drum bringing in a swinging, regal refrain, konting melody supported by bagpipes. The alternation of verse and refrain repeats; one verse in the center contains a stunning konting improvisation, later refrains are joined by smiling scat vocals. Tigerlily's musical vision can be a bit perplexing, and some tracks seem to veer toward ambient jazz, elevator music for an alien culture, but there are enough successes, enough innovative and surprising moments, especially on "Radix," for me to hope they continue their experiments. - Jim Foley

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