You might think a record titled In Case We Die would be a bummer, but Architecture In Helsinki’s follow-up to Fingers Crossed is simply aglow with beauty and wonderful music. Lyrics like “carve your name into my arm, cos I long to feel your name blood red” from “What’s In Store” may read as depressing, but we’re dealing with metaphorical weather bulletins on In Case We Die with lightning appearing in three songs. This Australian group have credited everything from Ennio Morricone, Scott Walker, Curtis Mayfield, Ethiopian pop music, Wu-Tang Clan, Randy Newman, Faust, The Zombies, Brian Wilson, rocksteady, to tropicalismo with inspiration for their sound. Often when you mix too many musical styles together all you get is a gray mush, but Architecture In Helsinki do things right producing a bright and intricate jewel of a record.
You usually don’t think of octets when you’re considering rock bands but that is what Architecture In Helsinki are; an octet made up of:
Cameron Bird – vocals, guitar, keys, bass, percussion,
James Cecil- drums, percussion, guitar, bass, keys, backing vocals,
Gus Franklin – trombone, drums, guitar, keys, percussion, backing vocals,
Isobel Knowles- trumpet, keys, percussion, backing vocals,
Jamie Mildren- guitar, bass, keys, percussion, flute,
Sam Perry- bass, guitar, keys, percussion,
Tara Shackell- tuba, trombone, keys, percussion, backing vocals,
Kellie Sutherland – vocals, keys, clarinet, percussion.
In Case We Die begins with a Morricone slice of musical pie called “Neverevereverdid”; an ethereal Yma Sumac like voice lifting off over the sonically dry (think Smiley Smile) instrumentation including tubas, xylophone, and wood block. The Dadaist blend is appealing. It feels intimate and even amateurish, but you know that novices could never make music like this. “It’s 5!” is a singular bit of pop with a frantic chorus that swells to a crescendo that Lindsey Buckingham would be jealous of, “could’ve sworn that wine and one and four made two, but it’s 5!” Martin Denny is evoked on “Tiny Paintings”; a nice warm up to the pop mastery that is “Wishbone” drifting down a synth river leading to an even poppier outro.
If whimsical pop is not your bag, Architecture In Helsinki also know how to play the funk game on “Do The Whirlwind” – it starts with some Human League sounding synthesizer before some Tom Tom Club style percussion come in for funk that only AIH could pull off ending with a full choir of voices before a flourish of jazz horns. The title cut is a 4 part mini-suite of music; something that definitely shows the influence of Brian Wilson. “The Cemetery” is like a one stop memory shop; we all end up in one eventually. Another highlight of the record is “Need To Shout” – a baroque exotica masterpiece, a melting pot of sounds the logical step from Sgt. Pepper’s in the same fashion as Smile. “What’s In Store” closes out the album carving AIH into the listener’s imagination as you’re left wondering on the deeper meaning implied on In Case We Die; it’s just absolutely entrancing, one of the year’s best albums available from Bar-None Records.
Visit Soulfish Stew for links to the artist’s website among other great things.