Kyrie Kristmanson: Origin of Stars


The last few years have seen French labels sign acts from abroad – who may or may not be France-based – and then develop them, release them and sell them to the outside world as not quite home-grown, but virtually French. Two Door Cinema Club, although from northern Ireland, are signed to Paris-based Kitsuné. They’re doing quite nicely. Uffie, although US-born, is now Paris based and signed to Ed Banger for Europe. Lithuania’s Alina Orlova is with Fargo and her focus is directed squarely on France. Kyrie Kristmanson was born in Canadian capital Ottawa, has close ties with similarly Francophone Québec and – like Orlova – is working in and is now largely based in France after signing with No Format. It’s a tribute to French labels that these various adopted sons and daughters have thrown their lot in with our nearest continental neighbour. Everything allowing them to do what they do is French. To varying degrees, they all might as well be French.
With Kyrie Kristmanson, her music shares more with France than, say, Uffie, and it’s clear more than that attracted No Format, whose most well-known signings are Gonzales (also Canadian) and the Mali/French pairing of Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Segal. Multi-instrumentalist Kristmanson, now in her early 20s, issued her first album in 2006. The second followed in 2008. Between the two, ‘Song X’ led to her being declared Best Young Performer by the Canadian Folk Music Awards. ‘Origin of Stars’, released in France in May this year and the UK this November, revisits songs from this recent past, including ‘Song X’. No Format’s characteristic graphic house style encases the album.
Whatever the journey, the delicate and affecting ‘Origin of Stars’ is naturally at home in France, especially with French-accented Kristmanson’s singing voice on this mostly-English language album (‘Oh, Montmartre’ is in French). The sparse instrumentation (only bass guitar and drums) of opening cut ‘Song X’ shares its rhythmic base and infectious gospel snap with Camille’s classic ‘Le Fil’. ‘Jump’ is similarly sparse and syncopated, but with an added rolling, finger-picked acoustic guitar. On ‘Eruption’ she contributes a peculiar trumpet solo that’s like ‘Kind of Blue’ reassembled. ‘Who’ is Bossa Nova stripped of its characteristic rhythm. Most extraordinary is ‘Birdsong’, which ebbs and flows like an acoustic Young Marble Giants version of Richard and Linda Thompson. The title track recasts the atmosphere of Eno’s ‘Another Green World’ at its most pastoral. Apart from some nighttime outdoor ambience, ‘Song For a Blackwind’ is delivered entirely as a solo vocal. Folk is probably the easiest touchstone for this wistful and spooky album, but the seamless ‘Origin of Stars’ is more than that. Jazzy chord shifts and those gospel moments confirm that Kristmanson is as musically adventurous as she is geographically.
© Kieron Tyler