(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, April 29, 2011

CD review - Architecture in Helsinki, Moment Bends (2011)

Architecture in Helsinki continues to mature, moving further away from their more eclectic beginnings. On Moment Bends, the band throws themselves wholeheartedly into heavily dance oriented pop. The smooth mix of instruments include traditional pop guitar and bass, but electronic sounds dominate the tracks. The pop vibe is almost manic, but the lyrics occasionally add depth.

Between the disco dance beats and almost familiar riffs, the songs have a kind of retro veneer. Here's a bit of Katrina and the Waves, there's a touch of Bangles. It's not so overt as homage or rip off; it's more of a mindset.

There's a run of funk oriented songs in the middle of the album that provided my favorite bit of flow. That Beep, released earlier as a single, has a stripped down girly pop funk groove. This leads into a stiffer, sparse electro-funk groove on Denial Style, which sounds a bit like parts of Prince's Black Album. At first, Everything's Blue seems to break the mold, with an electronic intro cadenza. But then the funky, Michael Jackson inspired R&B pop kicks in.

Everything's Blue shows off Architecture in Helsinki's breadth of vision. The MJ style vocals of the initial verse fall away when the chorus slides into a short pop groove like Toto's Africa. The shift between these two sections is large but adeptly handled. The brief guitar pop bridge adds yet another flavor to this mix. The way these sections stream together is smooth and effortless.

The big single, Contact High, locks into the dance beat driven pop groove. The sparse electronic riffs and falsetto vocals create a fun feel for the verses. The catchy chorus bounces into indie pop. It's enjoyable fluff, but ultimately a bit sterile compared to some of the other tracks.

By contrast, W.O.W. ("Walking on water") offers beautiful pop perfection. I love the Kellie Sutherland's expressive vocals. With a touch of Enya layering, the R&B pop is simple and pretty. Sutherland's voice seems looser and richer than Cameron Bird's more heavily processed vocals.

Fans of the band's earliest work may grouse about the stripped down electro pop of Moment Bends, but it's an obvious refinement of the shimmery pop of songs like Do The Whirlwind (from 2005's In Case We Die). While Architecture in Helsinki has pared away much of their quirky instrumentation, the songs are catchy with some gems scattered about. Pick your favorite energy drink and groove along to the beat.

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