Dinosaur in Trouble: proudly serving Twin Cities music geeks

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Architecture in Helsinki

Yep, that's all eight of 'em.

A tremendous thing happened last year: I heard a crazy song called “The Owls Go.” Suddenly, I was overcome with an urge to buy an album by a band I knew nothing about. I kept a sharp eye on the used bins of all the record stores around town, but the album never showed up. Finally, I did the unthinkable – I spent $16.00 (yikes!) on a new CD just to try out a new band.

As a mathematician, I know better than to gamble. But sometimes, I just feel lucky. In the case of Fingers Crossed by Architecture in Helsinki, I won the freakin’ lottery! Forking over the big bucks on that album was one of the best decisions I ever made. I fell in love immediately. Throughout the past year, I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time doing nothing but listening to Fingers Crossed. It’s quite possible that Fingers Crossed is the strongest debut since Tigermilk. Seriously, I challenge anyone to find a debut album (from the past 5 years) that is as creative, innovative, unprecedented, and accessible as Fingers Crossed. I find it perplexing that Architecture in Helsinki came out of nowhere. If a band was about to release one of the best records of the year, wouldn’t you think that there’d be some sort of fanfare or buzz behind them? I mean, I heard all about Arcade Fire long before they released Funeral.

I’m obviously not being literal when I say Architecture in Helsinki came out of nowhere (relax; I’m not trying to insult your intelligence). They actually came from Australia (not Finland). Perhaps that is the reason why they weren’t preceded by any buzz. Throughout the past few years, the only Australian bands to successfully crossover to American markets have been hackneyed garage rock revival acts. No one expected something completely original to come from the land of Jet and The Vines. Architecture caught the world by surprise. In effect, Architecture in Helsinki single-handedly saved the reputation of an entire continent!

I was going to write several more paragraphs explaining the exact reasons why Architecture in Helsinki is one of the greatest bands around, but I found out that I don’t need to. Everyone else is doing it (finally). It was only a matter of time before the general population caught on. I will say one thing, though: Architecture in Helsinki is consistent! They just released their second album, In Case We Die (I wasn’t even tired of their first one yet), and it is already destined to go down in history as one of 2005’s best albums. In Case We Die is a monumental album, and as a result, Architecture is finally receiving the attention they deserve. Music journalists are scrambling to create a name for the genre that will inevitably spring from Architecture in Helsinki’s pioneering work. The name that will probably stick is Pitchfork’s “hyperprog,” which, apparently, could also be applied to bands like The Fiery Furnaces. Hyperprog…hmmm…catchy (as long as you don’t confuse Architecture for Emerson, Lake & Palmer or Yes).

I should make something clear. In order for a band to receive the coveted title of “one of Lee’s favorite bands,” not only do I need to be in love with them, I also have to have seen them live (and enjoyed them). Poor Architecture in Helsinki; they live on the opposite side of the globe. Traveling to Minnesota from Down Under is not an easy task (and it might not be high on their priority list). Plus, it would be nearly impossible to pull off their intricate arrangements and diverse instrumentation in a live setting. Face it; they’re doomed to be an enigmatic studio band.

A tremendous thing happened a couple Fridays ago: I saw Architecture in Helsinki perform live at the Turf Club! Guess what. Architecture in Helsinki is one of Lee’s favorite bands.

As an added bonus, Head of Femur was touring with Architecture. Now, Head of Femur could also fall into the so-called hyperprog genre. As the name implies, hyperprog is very suitable for people with very short attention spans. So if I were to book a local band to open for Head of Femur and Architecture in Helsinki, I would make sure to choose an eccentric band with zany pop sensibilities and a caffeinated live show. Cloud Cult would have been an obvious choice, but they were busy playing their CD release show at First Avenue that night. But there are plenty of other suitable local acts. For instance, Best Friends Forever, Hockey Night, or Belles of Skin City would have fit the mood perfectly. But nobody asked for my opinion, so instead, the ADHD kids in the Turf Club had their patience tested by the experimental noise-pirate duo, Beatrix*Jar.

Now, it is possible to appreciate Beatrix*Jar (see my write-up of the Menomena show), but it requires a determined attention span (and an ability to tune out their unnecessary attempts at singing). I wasn’t up for it. I became more and more restless; I desperately needed some Architecture in Helsinki.

Head of Femur helped perk me up. They were touring to support their new record, Hysterical Stars. All but two of the songs they played were from the new album, so there were no Brian Eno covers this time around (all of their original stuff is great, but I freakin’ love their version of “The True Wheel”). I was really impressed that the Turf Club stage was able to fit all eight members of Head of Femur. That was a good sign, considering that Architecture in Helsinki also needed to fit eight people on the stage (as well as a million crazy instruments).

Ooh, and then things got really exciting. The epic intro to Architecture’s song “Neverevereverdid” started blasting out of the Turf’s speakers. As everyone’s attention turned to the front of the club, eight shadowy figures came crawling in from backstage (literally, on their hands and knees). Without conversation, they settled themselves into a big hog pile on the stage. As the intro came to an end, the musicians slowly emerged from the heap of bodies and grabbed their instruments. As soon as they hit the first note as a full ensemble, I realized that I had just witnessed the evolution of the perfect rock band.

If you think eight musicians is a little extreme, what would you think of eight multi-instrumentalists who aren’t content with playing the same instrument for more than two minutes? During the span of a single song, the band members would run around the stage trading guitars, percussion, trombones, tubas, keyboards, flutes, and singing duties. The excessive multi-instrumentalism, and the endearing interplay among the band members reminded me a lot of a hyperactive Belle & Sebastian. And amazingly, they pulled it off without a hitch. Turns out, Architecture is not one of those clever studio bands with eyes bigger than their stomachs. They are an incredible live band fully capable of recreating the eccentricities of their albums, and then some. I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes.

The show just got better and better. I did not want it to ever end. I highly doubt that I will experience as much fun and amazement at a show for the rest of the year. Oh wait, I take that back – Architecture said that they’ll be back in the fall. Yes! I’ll be there! And so will you.

Tuomiokirkko (The Lutheran Cathedral) - a fine example of architecture in Helsinki.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, I was waiting for you to post one of your lovely detailed reports on the Architecture in Helsinki show. All I had to go on previously was my friend Patrick who said, "They were alright but it's not really my kind of music." And I needed more than that.

So yeah. Thanks.


7:34 PM

Anonymous erinlein said...




1:08 AM


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