Under Review: Architecture In Helsinki – Moment Bends

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The ‘lost’ or ‘abandoned’ album is a facet of the music world that’s at once alluring and unspeakable. No musician would want to draw attention to the fact that their vision couldn’t be realized, but they and their fans are forever left to wonder about what could have been. Particularly in today’s breakneck-paced society, where not releasing an album every other year is grounds for declaring a hiatus, an album stalled for almost four years can seem like a lost cause. This turned out not to be the case with Architecture In Helsinki, the Australian experimental pop group that had previously dabbled in ramshackle electronics and dime store brass instruments. Shortly after the release of their third album, Places Like This, the band released a stand-alone single, the bubbly “That Beep.” The song indicated a marked leap forward for the band, adopting a polished production that the band had seemingly been rejecting previously. With the promise of a project (not an album, a project) entitled Vision Revision, Architecture In Helsinki set us up for something even more challenging than a mere change in sound: it was time to wait.

Vision Revision, in the years since its announcement, eventually became Moment Bends. The sonic shift for the band was even more dramatic than “That Beep” hinted. Architecture In Helsinki have embraced a smooth ‘80s pop style that most closely evokes the billowy sounds of Prefab Sprout. Moment Bends, despite its overarching creative mission, is difficult to pin down; the band adds and subtracts elements from song to song for some intra-album genre meddling. Opener “Desert Island” rides a sunny reggae beat and its jumpy successor, “Escapee,” is a sassy synthesized strut. Moment Bends takes its name from a line in the bridge of “I Know Deep Down,” the shifting gem at the album’s center. Many of the tracks, including “Desert Island,” “I Know Deep Down” and closer “B4 3D,” feature codas, prominent middle sections or other diversions from each songs’ main theme. That kind of restless songwriting would run the risk of cluttering the album were the tunes not so darn likeable. The band’s less serious side comes through with each use of vocal manipulation. Cameron Bird’s voice is filtered and bent on “Contact High,” and Kellie Sutherland coos and chirps through the spacey “W.O.W.”

Considering their roots as a fun and freaky nonsense band, the grown-up version of Architecture In Helsinki is rather remarkable. Whether or not Moment Bends is the album they set out to make a few years ago is hardly a concern. The final set is charming, catchy and imaginative enough to stand on its own numerous merits. To paraphrase “Contact High,” Architecture In Helsinki might have been busy doing nothing over the past few years (not entirely true given their rigorous Australian tour in 2009), but it’s good to hear them getting loud again.

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~ by E. on May 2, 2011.

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