Review: Seaming To and Kira Kira
Venue: The Shed, Brawby, March 12, 2013
Seaming To and Kira Kira’s gig at the Shed’s spiritual home in Brawby was by some distance the smallest of their current UK tour. So it was that the musicians’ gear and mixing desk took up at least half the floor space of this most intimate of venues.
Kira Kira had played at The Shed about six years ago as part of an excellent Kitchen Motors showcase that also featured Johann Johannsson, Hildur Gudnadottir and Skuli Sverrisson. Her music has changed significantly since then, but she remains as playful and effortlessly individual as before.
The foundation of her set was an unpredictable wash of morphing tones and environmental noise triggered from her laptop and manipulated by a hand-held controller. Building on it with music box, mbira, small percussion instruments and her voice, she created a shifting collage of fragmented songs and instrumental passages that defied simple definition and which, she freely admits, sometimes surprise her.
She explained that she had been walking in the countryside that afternoon, and wondering why she didn’t merely play guitar and sing like so many others. But then she remembered that she had come here to “share her eccentricities with us”, and that maybe it could be fun. In doing so, Kira Kira reminded us that it is OK to be free and to play, to explore one’s creativity without worrying about whether or not the result might be acceptable to others.
Seaming To is an accomplished singer and multi-instrumentalist with a wide range of collaborations behind her, including Cinematic Orchestra and The Herbaliser. She took to the stage with her mother, the pianist Enloc Wu, to present music from her ‘Songs For My Grandmother’ project.
It took me a little while to adjust to the complex mix of their distinctive soundworld. I liked the lyrics, beautifully delivered and equally at home whether sung or used as poems. I loved the piano playing too, robust and jagged with an appreciation of Messiaen showing through, and tempered with occasional passages of calm. But it took a few songs for me to marry the two together, by which time they had begun to branch out into different musical settings augmented by the addition of pre-recorded textures and voices, clarinet, toy piano and music box. These later additions added warmth and atmosphere to an already intriguing set.
In truth, this was not one of those classic Shed nights where I feel swept away by the exuberance and fire of the musicians. It was instead a thought-provoking evening, with a different set of rewards on offer for the careful listener. Both Seaming To and Kira Kira are musicians for whom the desire to express themselves freely totally outweighs any thoughts of career advancement or diluting their message for wider acceptance. They simply do what they do, as they please, and invite you to take from it what you will.
In a musical landscape polluted by corporate strategy, dull radio programming, generic indie and dance music, and the bland conservatism of folk, this feels like a very good thing. I am grateful to them (and to The Shed) for it, especially given the limited opportunity for seeing experimental musicians perform in the York area, and it is reason enough for me to continue travelling out to Brawby on snowy March nights…