A very strong and confident first album from Kira
I came across Richard and Kira a year ago when they were playing a support slot and battling sound and technical problems to a disinterested crowd. Despite that, the interesting noise they made stuck in my head, with that spark of something that makes a band memorable. A few track previews were later released online and their first single and video, ‘October Day’ was eventually released last… November.
Like the best bands, KirA’s music is an intelligent blend of the different influences each member brings to the writing table. So here comes electronic music and analogue synths, whipped up with a goodly portion of Massive Attack, Portishead and a smidgen of house and trance, thrown together into a very large bowl and lovingly blended to produce an album called Spark Of Curiosity. With the kind of intelligent, spacious production values one might associate with William Orbit, and vocals which remind a little bit of Dido (but are both more interesting and varied in delivery), this is a very mature album, made for grown-ups… What Kira’s sensuous, breathy vocal delivery might do to the minds of adolescent boys could make the mind boggle! KirA call their music ambient/alt/electro – and that’s not a bad description to start with.
‘Her Siren Calls’ kicks the album off and at first you might be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into a retro electronic album, with a very Telekon-era Numan-esque synth swirl on the intro. But the song quickly moves beyond that arena with half spoken breathy vocal and minimal percussion. A good marker for the album; intimate vocals and shimmering harmonies plus some vaguely gothic guitar tones, synth lines and noises. And the production is just gorgeous – each sound fits perfectly into its own space. A slightly reworked ‘October Day’ follows and is a good indicator of what Kira are about… a beautiful, melancholy melody, strings, pads, insistent percussion, punctuated by interesting synth lines with Kira’s vocals – never shouty but still always clear – the captivating focal point. It’s easy to see how this song was getting some radio play.
‘Spark Of Curiosity’, as the title track, should stand out and doesn’t disappoint. It begins with a looped guitar motif and is more upbeat than the previous tracks. Driving, catchy, pulsing synth bass, benefiting from more guitar with some great harmony vocals. This sounds effortlessly memorable and strident, and would make a great single. ‘Healer’ builds slowly (it has time to, clocking in at over six minutes) – echoey synths with a repeating, insistent synth bass; building until the vocals finally make an appearance around the three minute mark. Again, the arrangement and production are very much the stars here – in less capable hands this could be an embarrassing mess; here it’s craftsmanship. Ethereal vocals swirl over the repeating beat, lines float in and out… and it’s gone: that six minute track really could’ve been longer.
‘Mischievous’ redefines breathy vocals, featuring vocals so intimate and close they could almost be being whispered in your ear. Backed by ethereal and spine tingling backing vocals, I dare you not to melt. Again, the vocals are complemented perfectly by the intelligent arrangement building up until the track bursts into life with crafted percussion and more of that lovely guitar.
‘Stand Up’ is the first of two tracks which wear their dance music influences a bit more openly, and is more conventional in structure – built as it is around a mid-paced dance beat and synth bass pattern reminiscent of early house, backed by a descending string backing. The other track is ‘Pure Delight’ – another dance track with a house beat but, this being KirA, the arrangement is more intelligent – breaking down here and there before reintroducing the beat, rather than being a constant four-to-the-floor trundle. Ultimately though, this is perhaps the least representative of the KirA sound overall and seems geared towards a more club environment.
‘Struggle To Survive’ is more reminiscent of ‘Healer’ or ‘Mischievous’, and we’re back to the more coldly beautiful, ambient synth swirl Kira featuring lovely multi tracked vocals and the strings back in perfect harmony with their surroundings. With the insistent drum pattern marching ever onwards, what sounds like a full string section dives in to see the track out to a neo-classical conclusion.
‘Within A Circle’ closes the album off with an instrumental – a low synth drones in the background while sustained and pizzicato strings play. A melancholic echoing piano echoes the string motif with odd ambient noises before choral voices are added, before… it ends, quite abruptly. An interesting and quite unexpected way to end the album.
While not perfect (‘Pure Delight’ for me is more formula than KirA, and the dance stuff is a little too clinical done to sound completely natural), ‘Spark Of Curiosity’ is a very strong and confident first album, with its own identity. A great album to listen to on headphones or on good speakers, just so you can appreciate the sheer quality of the production. That includes on the vocal, which as mentioned, is never loud but is never less than captivating – treated as it is with great care throughout, like every other sound used. A wonderful album.
KirA play the following live shows in the UK:
The Wunderbar, Midsomer Norton near Bath (4th April) – free entry and a 50 minute set from 9.00pm, please visit www.wunderbar.co.uk for more details
The Music Box, Salisbury (9th May) – free entry with stage time at 10.30pm
Dubs at the Park, Easthamstead Park, Bracknell (19th May) – stage time TBC
The Thunderbolt, Bristol (31st May) – free entry with stage time at 8.00pm
Flip Martian presents his Monday evening ’Selection Box’ show and a fortnightly Tuesday evening in concert programme ‘Live and Loud!’, both at 20:00 GMT on www.radio-happy.com .