From Iceland — Letters


Published January 13, 2006


I read your magazine, and have often commented on the high level of journalism within its pages. I am however, today, somewhat mortified by the rubbish you have allowed thru the editorial filter, regarding, specifically, the ‘album review’ of Kira Kira’s ‘Skotta’.
In Grapevine, it is generally obvious to me that the writers are- 
A), Interested in what they are writing about. 
B), Researching their material.
C) Combining their research with well-formed opinions (that while not always agreeable) deliver something that is both informative, well-written, well edited, and personal.
This is what makes Grapevine worth reading.
Your review of the recent Sigur Rós concert was obviously written by someone who knows about their music, who is a fan, or at the very least has a rudimentary understanding of what they are about. If you were to send a journalist who listens to Lenny Kravitz and Norah Jones along to review Sigur Rós and they returned with something to the effect of ‘…An unintelligible made up language wailed over 70mins of slow boring music that all sounded the same and horrible’, there is no way you would let that pass… because simply, they would be conveying an opinion, which while valid, has no frame of reference and would serve absolutely no purpose to a reader base who generally-speaking would not agree, not to mention it being highly disrespectful to the artist. 
So then, we come to the album review section- Journalism, this is not. It is blatantly clear from the ANONYMOUS reviewers writing (a point I will return to shortly) that he or she has absolutely no understanding of the material they are dealing with and therefore no reference points, or relevant and therefore valid opinions to draw from when approaching this work.
The review of Kira Kira’s ‘Skotta’ album should command the same level of respect as say, Sigur Rós, but it does not. There is no mention of who she is, where this music is attempting artistically or perhaps some contemporaries or previous releases from which to draw comparison. Furthermore, the writer obviously has NO interest in, or understanding of experimental or electronic music. 
-Why are you running this review?  
-What purpose are you serving in running it? 
You have not informed me of anything and you most certainly have not served the artist either…
-So who, or what does this review stand for?
It would take one phone-call, 2 minutes on Google, or even just a short walk down to Smekkleysa to pick up a press release, to find out that the incredibly talented young artist behind this release is Kristin Björk, one of the founding members of the Kitchen Motors Collective (undisputedly one of the most important driving forces in experimental Icelandic music today), and one of Iceland’s most interesting artists. You might also discover from this press release or phone call (Research- anyone?) that this album is in part drawn from a score Kira composed for a contemporary dance piece… which goes a long way to explain both the ‘mercifully short length’, the overall form and the ‘random bits of noise’.
There is NO mention of ANY of this in your review. WHY NOT?
Furthermore, to add insult to injury, the writer responsible for this abominable piece of rubbish doesn’t even have the decency (or guts?) to sign off on the review… I suppose it makes it easier to be lazy uneducated and slanderous when you don’t have to be responsible for it. So editors, what are you going to do about it? Ask yourselves would this review make it into The Wire or Rolling Stone…? NO. 
As I see it, Grapevine currently stands on a precipice, due largely to your generally high standard of journalism and investigative reporting you have a real opportunity to take stronghold in the Icelandic media landscape and establish yourselves as THE REAL newspaper, THE REAL critical eye and ear, THE REAL news source- that extends far beyond the tables of Prikið and Day-packs of German tourists.However, this review only serves to put Grapevine right where this kind of writing belongs- 
…Lining the cat-litter trays of 101.
Ben Frost
Dear Ben Frost,
First, I’d like to apologize to you, Kristin, and Sindri Eldon: You are a reader offended, Kristin is likely an artist offended, and Sindri Eldon is the CD reviewer who has had a disservice done to him because his name didn’t get printed through a layout error. Our new design team is excellent, but due to my own errors, I gave them a few stories late, and there were a few errors. The Grapevine does NOT publish anonymous articles—all opinions are the reviewer’s own.
As for whether Sindri Eldon is qualified to review Kira Kira—while I like your comment about sending a Lenny Kravitz fan to review Sigur Rós, this is not analogous to what happened on this particular occasion. Sindri Eldon has a great deal of knowledge about this particular style of music. He also knows who Kira Kira is. The reason his review did not grant the respect that you as a fan might have hoped for is that he did not find sufficient qualities in the music, for the reasons he presented. Great artists make bad art; our belief is that the art must be evaluated on its own. You refer to other magazines. Rolling Stone is a good magazine, but they have been irrelevant for the last thirty years. Mr. Wenner, the publisher, has a staff of old men, and people who want to be old men, and they like music by old men. The second best album of 2005, according to them, was the touchstone ground-breaker A Bigger Bang, by the Rolling Stones. Seriously. So to answer your question about what would run in Rolling Stone magazine—not one of our articles would be boring or irrelevant enough to run in Rolling Stone. (The Wire, however, is a strong music magazine. To test your theory on what they will print, we will send Sindri’s review along to them as soon as possible.)
Ultimately, I sympathize with you, Mr. Frost. You care about music. We do too. Our reviewers are required to spend an extraordinary amount of time with each CD, and all reviews are discussed in the editorial office at length. Disagreements are welcome, and we’ll print any dissent. But here’s the real problem: I realize that when we cast our opinion, we have an undue impact inside Iceland. This is not our fault: the problem is that the other newspapers and media here are not credible because they are just slapping their buddies on the back… something you seem to be asking us to do for someone who has helped theGrapevine in the past, Kira Kira.

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