Ahn Trio

Lullaby for My Favorite Insomniac

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The Ahn Trio -- Korean-American sisters Angella, Maria, and Lucia Ahn -- have always had strong crossover tendencies, and those tendencies get stronger than ever with Lullaby for My Favorite Insomniac, its title taken from one of several original compositions by Oregon-born composer Kenji Bunch that are included on the album. Bunch has been associated with the Ahns before, and his arrangements shape several of the tracks that he did not write here, but there are several new ingredients: tunes by Michael Nyman, and, most important, an unprecedented degree of electronic intervention. The first 12 tracks on the album include various added instruments and sounds, including vocals, and the whole production was put together, pop-style, at a studio in Prague. The last four "bonus" tracks (it's not exactly clear what the non-bonus version might be) take another step, featuring electronic remix techniques and even a Korean-language rap on the last track. So far this is all in line with a great many British crossover releases, although many fewer American ones. But what makes the Ahn Trio distinctive is that crossover chamber music is a much rarer animal. It incorporates a large degree of pop influence without losing its identity as a piano trio, even in the electronic context of a piece like Dream (track 8). There are missteps; the two tracks with vocals (one with a Korean accent, one with a Czech) are a bit mystifying. But the arrangements are fresh, setting Bunch's pleasant pop sensibilites against rhythmically sharper sounds; both My Funny Valentine and Astor Piazzolla's Oblivion are heavily reworked rhythmically into more contemporary versions. The sisters handle the various stylistic demands with aplomb, and even listeners not enamored of crossover music will likely have to concede the ingenuity of the whole enterprise. An Ahn Trio/Osvaldo Golijov collaboration would really be something to hear, but both probably have a lot of demands on their time at this point.

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