Keeping a finger on the pulse

Kira Kira – Alchemy & Friends

in Explore/Issue #3/REVIEWS by

Words by Bartek Wilk
Photo by Therese Precht Vadum
The review was originally printed in Reykjavík On Stage (Issue 3)

The title of Kira Kira’s fourth studio album speaks volumes. Alchemy & Friends, for me, offers a way to pass through a magic door to a fairy-tale world, yet not an entirely unfamiliar one. The artist behind Kira Kira, Kristín Björk, has been creating unique compositions with a special atmosphere for a long time. However, I must admit, her new album is a step towards more affordable music. Personally, I find it a good direction. Kira Kira had made us accustomed to musical experiments, compositions that did not necessarily take the shape of songs, tracks based more on sounds than melodies. But things have changed. Alchemy & Friends is filled with melodies, and of course they are kept in the right atmosphere. In many places, they are filled in with beautiful vocals and lyrics. It’s a moody and melancholy album on which Kristín’s electronic sounds are perfectly complemented by live instruments, not only strings.

I guess the new formula is also due to the guest appearances on the record. Besides alchemy, the album is based on the second pillar of friends. This particular fact cannot go unnoticed. Indeed, they have contributed quite a lot to Alchemy & Friends. Interestingly, Kristín maintains a consistent sound throughout the album, although among the co-authors of individual parts, there are seven guests whom I will call ‘friends’. They collaborated on this album on the principle of symbiosis. Kira Kira incorporated their various sounds into the project as perfectly as if they had always been there. So, here we have fantastic friends from Iceland – Gyða Valtýsdottir, Hermigervill, Úlfur Hansson and Hildur Guðnadóttir. But there are also artists from abroad – American pianist Dustin O’Halloran, producer Eskmo and composer Rob Simonsen, as well as German robot Koch, who lives in Germany. The compositions which were created and produced with themare interspersed with Kira Kira’s solo songs, establishing a natural bond and an axis around which the atmosphere of this album is created.

But the seven co-creators mentioned above do not close the list of people involved in the recording of Alchemy & Friends. Kristín mentions 46 friends, who not only play but also sing on the album. There are such names as Eiríkur Orri Ólafsson, Samuli Kosminen, Sillus and Kristofer Rodriguez Svönuson. It really makes an impression, especially as the creation of Alchemy & Friends took five years. The songs were recorded in several places around the world –some in Kristín’s studio in Berlin and others in Los Angeles and Reykjavík.

Referring to the title of the album, the artist admits that she would not invite to her recording sessions someone in whom she would not have seen the potential for friendship. Kira Kira’s artistic cooperation always starts with her sense of creative chemistry. This album is a kind of tribute to collaboration and the apotheosis of friendship thatgoes both ways. For example, consider the genesis of the first track. Kristín wrote ‘Talk to Your Hands’ for a friend, a pianist who could not move his hands for more than a year. She couldn’t help him in any other way than through her music. After all, that’s what friends are for.

The digital version of Alchemy & Friends was released on 18 January 2018 and the physical album will be released on 16 March on the Afterhours label. There will also be a special, hand-made vinyl edition, which will be released on the California label, Time Released Sound.

Kira Kira is Kristín Björk Kristjánsdóttir, a composer and filmmaker. She is a founding member of Kitchen Motors, a mischievous label and collective based on experiments in electronic music and arts, run incollaboration with Jóhann Jóhannsson and Hilmar Jensson. Kira Kira continually breaks boundaries between forms and genres through a repertoire that includes compositions for theatre, film, dance and art installations –as well as playful multi-disciplinary productions that exceed her work as a composer. Kira Kira sprang from this collective and continues to work with Kitchen Motors’ ethos at heart –a spirit of playfulness, exploring the relationship between experimental music and visual arts, collaborating with a plethora of artists.

Kira Kira – Alchemy & Friends:
1. Talk To Your Hands
2. Alchemy For The Heart
3. Forsæla
4. Courage Walks At Night
5. Logandi úlfar
6. Pioneer Of Love
7. Call It Mystery
8. And When You Fall You’ll Know You Have A Heart
9. Alchemy For The End

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