Architecture in Helsinki
I’ve always been joined to this element of minimalism, a degree of schizophrenia.
story by Cliff Berru
I’ll be honest. The reason I first considered writing about Architecture in Helsinki was because of an irresistible desire to interpret their namesake. I had to ask myself, “what does the architecture in Helsinki have anything to do with an 8-piece Australian band?” Then I thought it might simply be this clever use of geography, as electronic project Telefon Tel Aviv had done by naming itself after the Israeli city while adding syncopation to the wording. Or maybe it’s an inciting phrase and play on words like Cradle of Filth or Black Sabbath? Obviously it was intentional, but was it motivated by mass appeal or personal value? It’s difficult not to question a band’s intentions these days.
Well…it took some investigating, that’s for sure. What I did know of Helsinki is its function as the capital of Finland. What I didn’t know is Helsinki’s intrinsic respect of the French art and design style of Art Nouveau…
…and how it adapted itself visually through poetry – particularly through an epic of Finnish culture entitled the Kalevala, known for provoking the nationalism that once led to independence from Russia. It was Väinämöinen, the main character of the epic, who functioned as a shamanistic hero and possessed the magical power of song that evoked such feelings of courageousness.
Exeunt, Architecture in Helsinki
Then again, maybe that’s all bullshit. After listening to Architecture in Helsinki’s latest release, In Case We Die (Bar/None), you might forget all about this interesting play on words and the purpose for it.
The Architecture in Helsinki behind this topic of discussion is the Aussie chamber pop ensemble un-reliant on structure and contemporized musical expectations. They are avant-garde musicians in theory, but strive to nourish any ear with delightful melodies driven through pleasant saturations of the vocal chords and backed at times by sharp shooting guitar licks smiling over bouncing synth progressions. Sounds like a mouthful, right? Well, it is composed of eight very talented and “interchangeable members” according to lead male vocalist, Cameron Bird. ‘Interchangeable’ meaning the instruments, not the core eight members. It appears, at least on the new record, that every single member contributes some element of vocal, keyboard, or percussive support.
Reflecting back on belonging to such a large family of musicians, Bird considers times when “we have crashed into each other on stage,” and how “[Fingers Crossed] was like a recording safari…traveling around in like 12 different places,” until final completion almost two years later. Nonetheless, having this troupe, says Bird, “is always a challenge and always exciting and never uninspiring.”
They are from Australia…funny because the last band I ever considered from the country, sadly enough, was Silverchair. Remember them? Architecture in Helsinki however, “escapes from being quickly gratifying,” says Bird of their development of sound. “This is why I think I ‘m a huge fan of the Wu-Tang Clan…I have been really into hip-hop for about five years now. I’ve always been joined to this element of minimalism, a degree of schizophrenia.”
Vocal deliverance is the most gratifying element on the record and Bird, who practices a sincere attention to detail with each breath, doesn’t lead the melody astray. Simplicity helps calm the mood, a vibe furnished through a forest of synth and wind instruments. “The voice is like an instrument when it sits in a song with 20 other things,” says Bird, “I like it to sit amongst things like color…that’s why I really enjoy someone like Mike Patton. There is so much potential into what he can do.”
Expectations are tremendous for this forthcoming tour, but as the records display, their care of minimalism will surely develop on stage. For Architecture in Helsinki really do possess the magic power of song.
Architecture in Helsinki :: Schubas :: June 4.