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Music Review: Kira Kira – Our Map To The Monster Olympics

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First let’s get the good news out. Any fan of Kira Kira who wasn’t able to get hold of a copy of her 2007 limited edition EP will be pleased to know that most of it now appears on the Our Map To The Monster Olympics (Smekkleysa Records, 2008).

Kira Kira, Kristen Bjork Kristjansdottir, released her debut album Skotta in 2006. Being Icelandic no doubt helped draw the inevitable references to Reykjavik’s Bjork that followed. However, on the strength of this album there is a lot more individuality to Kira Kira than these mere comparisons imply.

From the outside at least, Iceland appears to be a curious place.It's dark, yet spectacularly lit by the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights. It is a place rich in folk lore whose Nordic themes have often permeated through the country’s music. The landscape is often volcanic, dramatic, and yet utterly beautiful.

With all of that in mind, it is little surprise that Kira Kira comes from there. Her electro-acoustic, melodic, textured, pop takes many unexpected turns just like the landscape. Sounding initially fragile, almost brittle it often masks a deeper darkness that can at times border on the sinister.

Hidden just below the surface are magical tricks of the light, sonic suggestions and buried gems. Nuggets of sound that sometimes only appear after numerous plays at a point when you think you have become familiar with everything in the music. The result is that just like the mysterious landscape it evolves, melts, re-forms, and fascinates.

This is her sophomore release. She has avoided all the cliche'd potential pitfalls with the second album and has produced something that steps further into the labyrinth, and deeper into the experimental well of her imagination.

Kira Kira is a founding member of Iceland’s Kitchen Motors family. Essentially it is an Icelandic project exploring and promoting the relationship between both the visual and, of course, sound.

Her own visual representations are often hauntingly effective. On the website it confirms this by saying, ‘the relationship between adventurous music and primitive moving arts is of particular interest’ to her.

So how adventurous is her music? An example would be one of the album’s longer tracks “Langt I Fustv Fua Vinis” which is full of half opened doors that are impossible not to venture through. It encourages you along one of the paths depicted in the poster that comes with the CD.

The uplifting “Melur Sjamur” snaps, crackles, and pops its way into your mind before again luring you off into a horn enriched soundscape.

Her use of bells, chimes, clicks, cuckoos, and various electronic pings combine to create a compulsive fascination above a subtle ambient texture. Often innocent and childlike in its simplistic form it can suddenly veer towards a sinister darkness like venturing into one of Iceland’s caves.

A prime example of this is “Gremlin Holiday” one of the album’s highlights. Having said that it is almost impossible to place one moment above the next and the album simply has to be heard in its entirety rather than merely dipped into.

Glockenspiels, horns, brass, and all manner of sounds conspire together to taunt, tease, and engage your senses. “Beach Box Disasters” does all these things and a whole lot more and rounds off an unpredictable and absorbing album in an unpredictable and absorbing way.

Hearing it through headphones in the dark is an experience that creates all kinds of imagery and flashes of Icelandic folklore weirdness. The remarkable “One Eyed Waltz” is unlike anything she has done before, to my knowledge at least.

“Bless” has so much going within it, whether it be on the surface or lurking just beneath, that it requires numerous plays before you really start to befriend it.

Intriguing, beguiling, enchanting and downright different, it is all these things and more. Whilst creating my own imagery I would dearly love to see what Kira Kira does to these mesmerising tracks when performed live. Then maybe I would begin to really understand.

As words have obviously failed me you need to go to Kira Kira’s MySpace page and have a listen.

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About Jeff Perkins

  • Jordan Richardson

    Sounds really interesting, Jeff. I’m gonna have to check this out. Thanks for sharing!