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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Architecture In Helsinki: Moment Bends

ARCHITECTURE IN HELSINKI: MOMENT BENDS (2011)

1) Desert Island; 2) Escapee; 3) Contact High; 4) W.O.W.; 5) Yr Go To; 6) Sleep Talkin'; 7) I Know Deep Down; 8) That Beep; 9) Denial Style; 10) Everything's Blue; 11) B4 3D.

Architecture in Helsinki's fourth album does revert some of the inauspicious changes witnessed on Places Like This — namely, it does not sound nearly as dumb and irritating, with significant­ly less emphasis on dated dance beats and idiot vocals: my guess is that Bird did pay attention to at least some of the original reviews, and understood that he went a little too far in his search for a new face for the band. Alas, though, neither is this a proper return to the potentially pleasant atmo­spherics of In Case We Die. Formally, it is more like a meticulously calculated averaged va­lue of both these albums — multiplied by a continuous lack of interest in improving the overall level of songwriting.

At least the early records told a tale of a fairyland child playground, and Places Like This told the tale of a dance floor for hopeless morons: you could see the former as «cute», and the latter as «awful». Moment Bends merges these notions and thoroughly neutralizes them, so that, for the first time in AiH history, I am utterly perplexed, as the album leaves me with zero emotional im­pressions, and I mean that seriously. I have no idea what the record is trying to say, why it exists, how it should be interpreted, whether it should be considered «art», etc., etc. My current opinion — subject to change, perhaps, but only if I decide to continue exploring the album further, which is not very likely — is that the band has simply lost its way, completely: having swerved from the experimental, but promising path right into a dense thicket, for no reason other than stupidity, they are now proceeding blindly, without the least idea of what it is they are doing.

In some historical situations, perhaps, such blind prancing can produce unexpectedly delightful results — but not if you are Cameron Bird and his followers. Take the first track, ʽDesert Islandʼ. It is put together as a ska-based number, but uses cold electronic tones and an equally «icy» vocal style: that is, a rhythmic basis normally used to express smily joy is overridden with stimulants of «cold beauty» — the two successfully kill off each other, and I have not even yet mentioned the general monotonousness and complete lack of attention-attracting melodic twists.

Going on to track No. 2, ʽEscapeeʼ, we find a simple, but «potentially efficient» rubber-springed synth-pop riff that eats up everything else about the song (including a vivacious funky guitar part that is only properly audible for about two bars), except for the multi-tracked vocals which try, a bit, to push you in the direction of escapist idealism, but hardly succeed — too glossy and plastic is the processing, too expressionless the singing. And, once again, it's just one repetitive idea bouncing up and down for the entire duration of the song.

As usual, those tunes that are vocally dominated by Sutherland are a trifle more accessible and enjoyable: ʽW.O.W.ʼ (which is actually short for ʽWalking On Waterʼ) sounds like Enya on am­phetamines, and at least its icy romanticism passes the «credible» mark. But even Sutherland ul­timately embarrasses herself on the «Prince-for-five-year-olds» bubbly dance groove of ʽThat Beepʼ and on the robotic electro-funk of ʽDenial Styleʼ.

Actually, the phrase «significantly less emphasis on the dance beats» that I used above by no means is supposed to say that the dance beats have gone away — on the contrary, about 80% of the album can still be formally qualified as «dance-pop». The difference is that the beats are get­ting softer, and, most importantly, no longer stimulate the singers into behaving like a bunch of overworked DJs with no sense of taste or measure. But for some weird reason, they still insist on having a «body-oriented» underbelly to most of these tunes — even if, whatever that particular essence of Architecture In Helsinki could be, it is not in any way related to dance music. It's as if, oh, I don't know, Bob Dylan got so infatuated with Italian opera that he would try to imitate Pavarotti on every one of his records, ignoring the critical horror and the dwindling record sales. Same type of silliness, if on a smaller scale — quite a natural cause for a thumbs down.

Check "Moment Bends" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Moment Bends" (MP3) on Amazon

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