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The Graun's resident indiepop kid, Jude Rogers, has a track-by-track, minute-by-minute review of the new Architecture In Helsinki album:

(track 1) 0.37 Good God - this is the strangest damned thing I've ever heard. Punchy, nasty drum beats, chunky, clunky metallic keyboards - imagine a Prince album track from the mid 1980s reworked by the devil - and the Cookie Monster drunkenly growling on top about brides and grooms and offices.
(track 5) 1.36 Here's a thing: I like this band much more when they're calmer. Does this say something about me or them? Am I a frighteningly boring old bugger, startled to smithereens when I hear the merest snarl? Or is music better when it's controlled and considered? This young thing will plump for the second option.
(track 10) 1.13 Wo-ah! Plink! BZZZZ! Suddenly I know EXACTLY why it's not working. It's not quite a case of too many cooks spoiling things; it's a case of too many ingredients being stirred into the broth. You know when you're younger, and you think the more herbs and flavours you put into a meal the fancier it'll be? And then you have a nice, simply cooked bit of beef and it's the best thing you've ever had? It's like that. Less wow, bam, dang, wang, wallop, wah, my architectural friends. Just stick to the wow.

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Psst! If you go here, you'll find a MP3 of Architecture In Helsinki's new song, Heart It Races, as covered by new-jack-indie artist Hey Willpower. For the Flash-challenged, you can snarf the MP3 from here.

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The Architecture In Helsinki marketing juggernaut is gearing up to promote their upcoming releases; MP3 blog Stereogum now has an electro-dance remix of their latest single, Heart It Races; this dispenses with the reggaetonisms of the original (could it be that AIH read ILX last year as well?) and sounds much as you'd expect something titled the Pink Skull remix to sound: hard-edged and hyper-fashionable. Expect to hear this playing in the coolest boutiques in Prahran.

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News is filtering out about Architecture In Helsinki's new material; the album has been recorded, though the title and release date are as yet unknown. The first single, however, will be titled "Heart It Races" (how AIH is that title?), and should be out sometime around early May, or at least that's when they're touring (the east coast of Australia) to promote it. They will also be playing at festivals in Europe in June.

If their gig at ULU in London last year is anything to go by, the new material should be in more of an electro-funk direction. I'm certainly looking forward eagerly to it.

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Australian "gothic afrobeat jam band" Architecture In Helsinki has some interesting stuff on their MySpace page, including a Beach Boys cover, a Four Tet remix, and a mash-up of Do The Whirlwind and some Busta Rhymes raps.

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Pitchfork interviews Jens Lekman, in which he talks about how he deleted all his unfinished songs from his computer and went to work in a bingo hall to take a break, the numerous records he has sampled, being beaten up by Morrissey fans (apparently the jock bullies in Sweden listen to Morrissey) and his coming Australian tour, backed up by Guy Blackman and members of Architecture In Helsinki.

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The Age has a piece on Melbourne coolsie darlings Architecture In Helsinki:

"I think people find that we're really pretentious," says Sutherland cryptically, "or they find that we're really unpretentious."
"To me," he says, "Fingers Crossed was the sound of a band working out what they were doing. There was always a lot of criticism of the naivety on it, but that naivety was totally genuine, because really none of us had any preconceived idea about what we were actually doing when we stood in front of the microphone."

It has always been my contention that AIH would probably sound better in a few albums' time. Fingers Crossed, IMHO, had one really good track on it, and the rest was filler (albeit of an overly twee, fluffy, sugar-coated sort); the fact that the band weren't particularly tight musicians (they did sound like a high-school band, or perhaps the Clifton Hill Very Special Childrens' Choir) didn't help. Having said that, their new album, In Case We Die, sounds interesting:

There's the '70s tropicalia of Need to Shout, the bubblegum pop and Monster Mash-style doo-wop of The Cemetery, the stately piano grandeur of Maybe You Can Owe Me and the synth-pop fizz of first single, Do the Whirlwind. Bird says In Case We Die is a result of the band becoming match-hardened since Fingers Crossed.

I asked at Rough Trade about Architecture In Helsinki, and they hadn't heard of them. It seems that the only Australian bands that get a following here are NME/Xfm/Carling darlings like Jet and more traditional pastoral indie-popsters like The Lucksmiths. I may have to get someone in Australia to send a copy of the album over.

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If Architecture In Helsinki were furries, they'd probably be something like this band.

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I have it on good authority that Belle & Sebastian are coming to Australia, playing on 24 July at the Palais. I wonder who the supports will be; the obvious choice would be Architecture In Helsinki, though Tugboat were angling for this when it last came up. The Tranquilizers could also work. And I'll nominate Talkshow Boy as an outsider candidate.

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I recently picked up three CDs from local artists and/or labels:

  • Your Wedding Night, s/t -- new-garage-rock with a slutty-bogan-chick flavour. Songs about shagging in panelvans oral sex, and facial ejaculation, as well as mainstays such as crushes and thinking one is cool. The sound is somewhere between The Strokes and AC/DC, only on a garage-rock budget. One of the personnel is Kellie Sutherland, of sugary-twee-pop superstars Architecture In Helsinki; perhaps her next project will be blinged-out hip-hop or something? (Interesting to note that Clem Bastow, who previously took Architecture In Helsinki to task for being too bourgeois, gave this a bucketing in InPress; could that be a vendetta?)
  • Baseball, Gods And Stars, Priests And Kings. This one is Cameron Potts' baby, and if you know anything about Mr. Potts, you'll know that it's rather weird. The booklet is filled with reliefs of Assyrian torture methods, each described in details; meanwhile, the record combines breakdance-electro-hip-hop drum machines, Middle Eastern scales played on punk violin, piano accordion and samples from Islamic prayer calls and a 1978 New York hip-hop radio show. Cameron's manic intensity has a way of not coming out without an audience, and his studio recordings are usually less energetic than his live performances; however, the layered spoken-word treatment on track 1 works quite reasonably, and Cameron's vocals in other places evoke John Lydon circa PIL. In parts of the CD, however, the elements don't so much come together as collide head-on; the dirty garage-punk bass sound doesn't sound quite funky enough for electro hip-hop, and one gets the impression that the elements don't quite jell.
  • Various artists, Wild About You! A Tribute to the Australian Rock Underground 1963-1968. This is a book and CD, put out through 3CR, and co-edited by local troublemaker Iain McIntyre. The book consists of interviews with various people who were in bands at the time, recounting being inspired by hearing the Beatles on the radio, as well as the trials and tribulations of being in the Australian rock scene, which involved being harrassed by the police for having long hair, or beaten up by the local yobs because their girlfriends fancied you. (Australia was a rather rough place back then.) The CD consists of covers of 1960s Australian garage-rock standards by contemporary bands, such as The Drones, Pink Stainless Tail and Digger and the Pussycats. The music is, as you might expect, typically fairly straightforward 3-chord blues-based rock, though not far removed from the stuff that's fashionable now. Most bands play it fairly straight, though The Gruntled bring in a hurdy-gurdy and French bagpipes, whereas Ninetynine give their contribution the usual Casio-and-vibes treatment, making it sound almost like electro-pop. Oh, and the last track was recorded backwards (as was the original).

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It's official: Radiohead are touring Australia next year. They're playing the Rod Laver Arena on April 26, with tickets going on sale in about a week. I'm not sure I'll go; I went to see The Cure (yes, I know) at the Rod Laver Arena some years back, and needed to rent a pair of binoculars to actually see the band; had they been booked into, say, the Metro (where I saw New Order and Kraftwerk) or the Forum (where Moz tore the roof off the place), I'd buy a ticket in a flash.

In other rumours, a certain Scottish band may be touring Australia next year; they'll probably play at the Corner or the Prince or somesuch, undoubtedly supported by Architecture In Helsinki or The Lucksmiths or someone like that.

And speaking of touring bands, FourPlay are coming down to play the Queenscliff festival. So Melbourne fans will be able to see them slightly more conveniently than by travelling up to Sydney.

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Looking at the temporary page on the Ninetynine web site; apparently there is a video for The Process, but it's in streaming Windows Media only. (The XML-like file linked to also says it's copyrighted by Festival Mushroom Records, which sounds a bit odd, given how the band like to own all their own masters, unless News Corp. commissioned the video themselves or something.) Anyway, whuffie to the first person to send me a HTTP, FTP or BitTorrent link to a file of the video. (Preferably in MPEG4 or some good-quality format. Windows Media 9 and below is OK as long as there's no DRM involved; i.e., as long as mplayer on Linux will play it.)

And here are their Australian tour dates:

Fri 19th Sept - Annandale Hotel w/ The Devoted Few + Disaster Plan. - 8:30 Start $8
Sat 20th Sept - Pop Frenzy Presents.. @ The Taxi Club, 40 South Dowling St, Darlinghurst w/ Disaster Plan - 9pm Start
Sun 21st Sept - All Ages Show @ The Club House, Jubilee Park (under land bridge) Glebe w/ Pure Evil. 2pm - Donation
Fri 26th September - Rob Roy Hotel w/ Pink Stainless Tail (CD Launch) + Jihad Against America
Sat 27th September - Rob Roy Hotel w/ Love of Diagrams + Because of Ghosts

And apparently there's vinyl of The Process coming out too. (Which stands to reason, as labelmates Architecture In Helsinki have been doing the vinyl thing too.)

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There are some tracks worth voting for in the Triple J Net 50; Love of Diagrams, Minimum Chips, Manitoba and Interpol are in the current one. So's an Architecture in Helsinki song, but it's not one I'm all that fond of. (There is such a thing as too twee, you know.)

Not sure if my vote will be counted, though, given that I put in my real age.

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Unlike some people, I didn't get to go to Iceland, but I did get to see a small piece of Iceland tonight at the Corner; namely, Múm. They were supported by Minimum Chips (my second favourite local band at the moment) and Architecture In Helsinki.

The Chips played two sets on the side stage: one shortly after 9, when the doors opened, and one after AIH finished while Múm were setting up. For the first set and half of the second, they played without Ian, with the drum kit standing empty and an old analogue drum machine carefully programmed with all their drum patterns. They played all the tracks off Gardenesque, a few old songs from around the time of Swish and a few from various compilations, which was good.

Between their two sets, local twee indie-pop orchestra Architecture In Helsinki took to the main stage and played for about 45 minutes. They played some tracks off Fingers Crossed (some in extended versions) and a few new tracks; their new material is somewhat less sugary than the album tracks, and perhaps a bit reggae/dub/ska inspired in places. (Which makes sense; they have enough personnel to form a ska band, for one.)

And Múm were pretty good. Their music was rather sparse, drifting between pieces. It is probably a dreadful cliché to say that it evokes the sparse Icelandic landscapes, but it did. They played a number of pieces, including some new ones, melding from piece to piece. I was expecting them to be standing behind laptops and controlling some mysterious process that made plinking noises, but most of the music was live, played on melodica, violin, keyboards (including a vintage Wurlitzer and a Moog), guitar, drums and xylophone; oh, and the obligatory PowerBook. They finished up with an encore of I'm 9 Today. And the Guns'n'Roses T-shirt one of the band was wearing was quite amusing.

And someone kept blowing soap bubbles over the audience during their set. Probably an AIH fan.

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This afternoon, I went along to the Museum to see Architecture in Helsinki and their new video. They performed in one of the galleries (a room full of contemporary Australian objects, lit dimly in various contemporary Australian colours), playing in front of a large video screen, and doing various of their songs, as well as a cover of The Cure's Close To Me, before putting on and playing along to the videos. Firstly they played a video they had made that day in the museum, full of stop-motion video of band members and various kids moving around in the museum (which was quite amusing, and very impressive given the timeframe in which it was made); and then, their video for Like A Call, which had apparently been aired on Rage. The latter video was, as you'd expect from them, exceedingly twee. Two little kids (a little boy and girl) and a puppy go for a ride in a borrowed car, and end up jumping off a cliff. All very cute, in a South-Park-meets-Czech-animation sort of way.

(One thing I noticed: the little boy in the video looked like a baseball cap-clad homie, unlike the twee characters seen elsewhere. (You wouldn't expect to see Boy in Cat and Girl wearing Fubu thugwear, would you?) Perhaps AIH, drawing on post-hiphop kidlore, are being up-to-date in their twee iconography, with all the other twee popsters being retro?)

Anyway, with any luck they'll end up releasing their animations, perhaps on a DVD.

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The Architecture in Helsinki backlash begins; Rocknerd has a scathing review of their album launch at the Corner, arguing that bourgeois middle-class kids have no business being twee and "innocent", and should leave that to those who have won that right through hard struggle. And that their stage presence sucked.

The innocence that Jonathan Richman and Brian Wilson explored came to them in brief flashes amidst the pain of trying to reconnect with a lost childhood. It went hand in hand with the madness of being lost in an emotional wilderness. It doesn't have anything to do with spokey-dokes, or windmills, or fucking ice creams. For middle-class kids to play with and fabricate that innocence - that was for Richman or Wilson, hard won and fought for - without acknowledging the pain it goes hand in hand with is reprehensible.
All in all, it's as though punk never happened. To perform and write pop music that doesn't reflect an element of the culture and society that creates it is to miss the point. You don't have to write about Redfern or Soweto, but to perpetuate a mythic 'everything-is-fine-and-dandy' theme - especially when things clearly aren't - is stupid and misguided. The best pop music alleviates your troubles without denying they exist. Architecture In Helsinki performs in some kind of kindergarten nativity bubble, with a false innocence borne of a Hallmark Cards sponsored vision of a pop utopia.

IMHO, "everything-is-fine-and-dandy" is good when it's done in a (subtly or otherwise) subversive context, with just enough being askew to suggest that that's a facade or a pathological case of denial. Radiohead's Everything In Its Right Place is one example. (Btw, did you know that a British gardening/renovations show actually used that as incidental music for the "after" sequences of rebuilt backyards? Irony's lost on some people.)

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Ah yes; the Architecture in Helsinki gig last night was good. They played most of the songs off Fingers Crossed, including a longer version of One Heavy February with actual vocals. (That song will undoubtedly be an enigma to those who haven't seen them live.) They also had an assortment of hand-made merchandise, including a surfeit of button badges. (For AUP10, you could get a set of badges of Macintosh icon renderings of all the band's members; though I just got the two "Fingers Crossed" badges.)

(The support set by Ninetynine rocked hard, but you knew I was going to say that. And the dance number by those two birds with funny wigs and party poppers was somewhat amusing, in an art-schoolish post-ironic-hipster-kitsch sort of way; well, what I could make out of it over the heads of the crowd from the front of the other stage.)

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Today's InPress has a review of Architecture in Helsinki's new album, Fingers Crossed, comparing it to "Belle & Sebastian on Prozac", and suggesting that AIH may in fact be Belle & Sebastian in disguise. The review also makes references to Stereolab and Frente. Heh.

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This afternoon, I made my way down to the Fitzroy swimming pool. Why, you ask? No, not to do a few invigorating laps of the pool, nor because of any sort of aesthetic liking of the smell of chlorine and the sounds of children running around and splashing, but because today was Rockpool, the annual daytime-concert-at-the-pool event. No major international artists, but local acts (like B(if)tek and Architecture in Helsinki) came along to give something back to the community.

In particular, I showed up just in time to see the Ninetynine set; the first one of the year, I believe, and the first time I had seen them since London. The sounds wasn't ideal, but the energy was there and it rocked. (Incidentally, they seemed to rely on a MiniDisc for a lot of the rhythm loops; perhaps they're running out of Casiotone keyboards or something?) They did a new song, with Amy singing; it sounded a little New Orderesque, at least to my ears. (Occasionally I wonder just how much they were influenced by New Order/Joy Division; that and the guitarwork on Woekenender and Laura's lyrics sounding just a tad Barneyesque in places.) Anyway, they rocked.

The audience was full of pale indie types who don't usually go in the sun; some were looking a tad awkward in bathing costumes, others came wearing band T-shirts and shorts and such. (I was the guy in the Gentle Waves T-shirt and brown cords, looking rather out of place in the sun.)

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I wandered down to PolyEster this afternoon, and saw the new Massive Attack CD. Nice packaging; though pity it's not available on a CD (only on one of those copy-restricted non-Red-Book-compliant CD-like things). Bugger that then.

(The label on the packaging says that it works with Windows, presumably in some "secure" DRM mechanism. I can understand us Linux-using nonpersons being snubbed by the recording racket ("get a copy of Windows, you bum!"), but EMI's big fuck-you to the Macintosh-using audience, especially on a Massive Attack disc, is harder to justify. Let's hope they change their minds before releasing the next Morrissey record.)

(Btw, is 100th Window released in Red Book-compliant, non-"copy controlled" CD format in any other territories?)

I did, however, pick up the new Architecture in Helsinki album, Fingers Crossed. The packaging is very cool, and on first listen (six tracks in), it sounds pretty good, in a garage-indie-pop-meets-electronica vein. Some of the tracks sound a bit unpolished (though that's probably deliberate), though there are some real gems; especially Scissors Paper Rock; expect to hear that in one of my DJ sets, possibly next to some Stereolab or something.

(Btw, what is it about Casio-wielding indie bands naming songs after games? You had Lacto-Ovo's Bingo, Ninetynine's Cluedo and Uno, and now AIH have joined the trend.)

I also picked up Stereolab's Cobra and Phases Group... while I was there. With that, my Stereolab collection has doubled in size over the past week.

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The Architecture in Helsinki CD launch was rather fun (in places). The first set (by Qua) was the usual obtuse laptop music, though not too bad. Jeremy Dower's support set, however, had a cheesy 80s-lounge-music (think Kenny G meets some cop show theme or other) feel to it; he's apparently abandoning the laptop-glitch side of things, though I'm not sure I like where he's going. And annoyingly enough, the music between sets was all booty R&B and commercial hiphop from the 90s (they had MC Hammer there, for "Bob"'s sake); not the sort of music that you'd expect the crowd, in their op-shop shirts and pastel jumpers, to get into, and there was too much of it for it to be ironic.

Architecture in Helsinki were good though (despite the place being so packed that it was hard to see them). In their usual so-twee-it-hurts vein, as soon as they got on stage, an accomplice opened a door releasing dozens of red balloons (one of which had a feather tied to it, and a prize for whoever got it). The performance was good too, in the usual xylophones-and-brass-and-reed-instruments vein. Most of the time they didn't quite rock, but played some very nice and somewhat quirky quiet pop. They ended the gig with a rocking rendition of The Cure's Close To Me, complete with heavy-metal-style guitar solo, and for an encore, one of the guys sang over an electronic backing track while the three girls busted some synchronised dance moves.

Oh, and their new single, like a call, is pretty good; especially some of the remixes. Apparently the limited-edition 10" vinyl version has an extended version of one of them too. I eagerly await their album, Fingers Crossed, which is due early next year.

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I'm half-wishing I was in London tomorrow night; because the Bowlie Nite Christmas special is on, and promises to be a lot of fun. Mind you, if I was, I'd miss the Architecture in Helsinki single launch on Friday night.

Meanwhile, it looks like Kraftwerk are doing a solo gig at the Metro in late January. Wonder how quickly tickets will disappear for that one.

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Live bands: This evening's live music at the Tote was quite good; first up was Steward (aka Stewart Anderson), doing the very final gig of his recent Australian tours. It was a solo gig, with just a guitar, some crunchy noise pedals and a MiniDisc of drum loops (some of which sounded like an 808 being run through various distortion pedals). He didn't bring any Hello Kitty toys or other similar noisemakers, but rocked out nonetheless. If Stewart plays in your town, either solo or in Boyracer, go and see him and be reminded what rock is.

Next up were Sister Cities, a minimal side project of Architecture in Helsinki. Guitar, clarinet, ba-ba-ba harmony vocals, a toy piano and some very lovely, sweet pop. At one point they did what I think may have been a Bruce Springsteen cover (though not that he'd recognise it). Anyway, they're playing again on the 4th at the Town Hall Hotel.

Then came Origami; a slightly punky two-girl indie-pop band (founded by a former member of a certain casiopunk outfit I keep going on about); mostly jangly indie guitars, with a few surprises (some banshee-like screams, and at one stage an 8-bar funk breakdown). Stewart joined them on drums and played really well (though he didn't think so).

Finally, Sarah Dougher came on and played a set, in a singer-songwriter sort of vein; fellow Oregonian Amy Linton of the Aislers Set joined her on drums.

Towards the end of their set, Origami did a short (and rather doovy) guitar/Casio instrumental named Nancy Drew; which got me thinking about the connections between a certain type of indie-pop and retro/childhood references. Whether it's retro-hipster irony, indiekid neoteny, subversive punk culture-jamming, or some combination of all three.

Anyway, it was quite a good night.

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