Reviewing records can really make you go away and listen to the band’s back catalogue, to track their development, descent or ascent, whichever is applicable.
I liked Architecture In Helsinki’s debut album, ‘Fingers Crossed’, and the diverse, tangential genre exploration of ‘In Case We Die’. I didn’t pick up the remix of said LP and didn’t even realise 2007 saw the release of most recent collection ‘Places Like This’. Listening to it now it seems to bridge the kaleidoscopic pop of their early output and the more streamlined sounds they now produce.
Those first two albums were such interesting, uninhibited tapestries of sounds - complete with helpful charts documenting all the instruments used track by track (of which there were loads). There were also two or three more members, which added to the variety. It certainly sounds like some key individuals’ influences are now absent. In conclusion, main songwriter Cameron Bird seems to need more people around him to flesh out ideas and keep things diverse, rather than the one pervasive sound of this collection of songs.
On to that one sound now. The high quality of ‘In Case We Die’ sets my expectations of a AIH album; I’m expecting the same cross-genre, play-anything-as-long-as-it’s-good approach. If I wanted to hear commercial ‘80s pop I’d listen to commercial ‘80s pop. Commercial ‘80s pop is, unfortunately, what this record sounds like. I feel I should point out that the ‘80s are not my favourite decade, musically or otherwise.
There’s a lot of similar AIH ideas and song structures floating around ‘Moment Bends’, they’ve just been clad in a more initially abhorrent skin, and one that I’m reluctant to delve beneath. After a fair old number of listens I’m finding things I like about a lot of the songs I hated at first, but that doesn’t make up for the things that will never win me over. On first listen, after Desert Island had kicked things off in the dreamy manner to which I am accustomed from this band, my hopes were raised. Then Escapee tapered off a bit, and by the third or fourth song we are firmly ensconced in slick ‘80s-ville, and I don't like it. Portions of the latter half of the album are much more palatable and there are some sublime moments, with the dishonourable mention of That Beep and Denial Style, which posses music on a par with their terrible titles.
The final song sounds like a classic album closer, and makes me thing of what could have been.