Architecture in Helsinki – Moment Bends
Release Date: May 3, 2011
Record Label: V2 / Downtown
A quick glance at my bedroom or workspace would reveal fairly readily that I suffer from whatever the opposite of OCD is (let’s call it DCO—“dude can’t organize”). I guess that, rather than spend (read: waste) countless hours arranging and ordering stuff, I’d rather use that time, let’s say, being productive, keeping in mind that what exactly that entails will vary wildly from person to person. Long story short, wherever I am, there’s typically lots of clutter around, and I rather like it that way. Couple that with my vocal support of recent ramshackle releases by Hot Hot Heat, Los Campesinos! and Love Is All, and you would probably expect my initial reaction to Architecture in Helsinki’s new, and decidedly streamlined, approach to be one of disappointment. However, their abandonment of skittering, eclectic arrangements in favor of embracing all things synth-pop on their new album Moment Bends results in perhaps the most assured work of their career, if not the best.
It’s always a risky bet to deviate from what’s resulted in past successes, but the clattering hipster tropes of In Case We Die, which etched Architecture in Helsinki’s name in the indie-pop canon, are nowhere to be found on Moment Bends, which takes the glitchy electronics explored on Places Like This to their saturation point at the expense of, well, just about everything else. I’ve heard the album referred to as very ‘80s in style, but I find that misleading, as there’s much more in common here with the semi-nerdy Casiotone-hop of early Hot Chip than the slick New Wave sound of Duran Duran, and the whole keyboard-pop schtick works way better for them than for ‘80s revivalists like The Sounds. What hasn’t been lost amid the change in musical philosophy is the band’s buoyant youthfulness, whether it’s in the form of endless hope (“Desert Island”), restlessness (“Escapee”) or simple young love (“Contact High”).
While Moment Bends is smoother and more glossy than their previous work, Architecture in Helsinki’s trademark nervous energy makes its way into a few cuts, particularly the exuberant “That Beep” and the quirky “Denial Style”. And while most of the record’s tracks are basic keyboard-and-vocal numbers, a fuller pop sound creeps into the mix occasionally, most prominently on “Everything’s Blue”, which is replete with guitar, sweeping arpeggios and spacious harmonies. Still, Moment Bends is largely characterized by a very intimate production touch, similar to what provides such charm to bedroom electro acts like Twin Shadow. It is a simple album that’s quite the polar opposite of the “mature” release one might begin to expect from a band by their fourth album. The regression in complexity seems to underscore the band’s endorsement of arrested development as the secret to eternal youth. Their perpetual glee suggests that maybe they’re onto something.