CD Review: Silent City

09.23.08
Kayhan Kalhor & Brooklyn Rider
Songlines Magazine

There are many ways you might have encountered Kayhan Kalhor's music. 

An undisputed master of the kamancheh (spiked fiddle), Kalhor helped fuse Persian folk and classical music with Indian raga on Ghazal's four CDs and is a founder of cellist Yo-Yo Ma's incredible Silk Road Project. Here he pushes the boat out even further, joining ultra- contemporary US string quartet Brooklyn Rider for a sublime set of stunning new music.

Kalhor, who is Iranian, met the Rider foursome at a Silk Road Project workshop in the US in 2000. One inspiring visit to Iran later and Silent City began to evolve. Bassist Jeff Beecher, percussionist Mark Suter and santur player Siamak Aghaei were added to the line-up for the four tracks - one of which, the extended title-track, developed out of a live US performance in 2005. Whilst this piece has complex, contrasting movements - from racy string sections to panoramic ambient drones - it's the other shorter pieces which work best on CD, literally raising the hairs on the back of the neck.

Silent City kicks off at a breathless pace on ‘Ascending Bird', where Kalhor's kamancheh holds its own among the twin violinists, Colin Jacobsen and Jonathan Gandelsman. ‘Parvaz' and ‘Beloved' are less racy, but, if anything, even more beautiful with Kalhor's lute-like setar hypnotic on the former and the Rider quartet working as a single, pulsing musical membrane on the latter. This is outstanding, unforgettable music, overlapping East and Western classical and folk modes in a wonder of world fusion.