Sympathetic Stupid

Monday, September 19, 2005

Architecture In Helsinki: In Case We Die

See, I bought the Like A Call single when it came out, and it was really good. Sorta IDM, almost Postal Service, nice and dancey. And then I bought the LP, Fingers Crossed and listened to it for a while, cause it wasn't just the same as the single. It was kinda schizophrenic and had some OK tracks but many of them seemed to miss. It was, I guess, electronic pop-folk, but the vocals were a bit twee and the music was a bit light and fluffy; it all sounded OK the first few times, but rapidly fell off to not much more than annoying.

The Fiery Furnaces entered my consciousness, with the initial reaction being 'that sounds like AiH', followed soon after by rejection. Not helped by the fact that it's nearly impossible to do any work when listening to something so seemingly indiscriminate. Eventually, however, the Fiery Furnaces shtick stuck in my eardrum.

I'd been hearing Do The Whirlwind a little on the radio. In the tradition of Like A Call, it was a dance-pop gem with a great bouncy beat and nice melodic chorus. Eventually, as it was written in the pig entrails, I picked up a copy of In Case We Die.

So Helsinki are still similar to the Furnaces, mainly in structure. Symphonic multi-movement songs, yep, with tempo and key changes strewn throughout. Hundred part arrangements which would have been completely impractical before cheap, competent mixing software became widespread. Riffs almost stolen from songs both great and poor, which pass before you can really grab at them. Clean production which deftly keeps the clarity of the mix foremost.

But there are big differences. AiH have a wide range of instrumentation, as featured in the liner notes, easily besting your common-or-garden orchestra. And Helsinki go with two to four minute ditties rather than twelve minute epics. More than once, this album made me think of The (seemingly-departed) Avalanches and their tour-de-force Since I Left You, but also of the Beatles' White Album. It feels like childhood's mythical sunny day stroll through a fairground, with too many delights on every side to allow concentration, and no immediate prospect of an ending.

Yeah, it's a good album. Staying power remains something of a question, but it seems to me that these guys are starting to come into their birthright. Let's just hope the intra-band chemistry remains solid until such time as they release their ultimate masterpiece. (Or at least through the US tour until I see them at Meredith.)