Architecture In Helsinki

with Oscar and Martin, Zowie

Architecture In Helsinki recently returned to Melbourne, the locals continuing their first run of headline shows in three years. Boasting brand new material alongside some beloved classics, the rejuvenated indie-pop outfit sought to once again impress audiences with their avant-garde repertoire.


Supports Oscar & Martin were first to the stage, often professing a tedious, minimalist approach with fleeting moments of pop. The duo appeared immediately polarising before a strong turn-out, their audience lay strewn across the venue floor, cross-legged and decidedly unmoved. Positioned at stations adorned with percussive devices, electronic gizmos and microkorgs, Oscar & Martin were never quite as accomplished as you would hope given their immense ambition. Their execution always seemed imprecise, threatening to degenerate into a catastrophic cacophony of sounds at any moment.


Even when songs appeared under their command, it remained difficult to extrapolate any sense from the result. Occasionally, if a set - or, indeed, a band's gimmick - is tough to label, it risks being tough to embrace. Such was the case for Oscar & Martin's collection of songs, which, though performed with passion, failed to leave any strong impression upon a discerning Melbourne crowd. Their set became a lumbering chore, interest quickly dwindling despite a successful and somewhat intriguing female cameo. There is an audience for their dense, trippy craft, but they would not find it this particular evening.


Auckland songstress Zowie offered a performance at the other end of the spectrum, presenting an efficient take on electro-pop and an on-stage persona with plenty of energy and swagger. Zowie strut her stuff tirelessly, covering each corner of the stage, her band operating with workman-like precision. Its easy to see why there's a whirlwind of hype surrounding the Kiwi, her approach to pop music going for the jugular with sights set on commercial success. That said, those after imaginative flare in their pop - a trait perhaps typical of Architecture In Helsinki aficionados - won't find immense value in her endeavours. Zowie represents an electro-pop archetype and, despite an obvious wealth of potential, she has yet to carve out her own definitive sound.


Vocally, she exerts a lot of sass in her delivery, but any astute observer will sense an emerging over-reliance on a particular trend: taking cues from artists such as Robyn and The Ting Ting's Katie White, Zowie often defies any strict sense of melody. Her style often borders on rap and it's not for everyone. Overall, we should expect Zowie to nail a degree of commercial success sooner or later, but time will tell if she will grow into her own artist.


Soon, Architecture In Helsinki would take to the Hi Fi stage, fans' rapturous appreciation for the locals in full swing. Keen to treat the evening as an album launch, the band indulged in many renditions of their new material. Track one of Moment Bends, "Desert Island" - a methodical stop-start groove - kicked off proceedings, with "Hold Music" shortly following, igniting the crowd by way of its effervescent funk and falsetto. Whether the band drew from their latest stocks or delved back into their classics, they could do no wrong. That Architecture In Helsinki held the audience in the palm of their hands their entire set is a testament to the pop genius that has endured throughout their body of work.


The band professed a stunning cohesion throughout their set, proving exceptional in their execution of undeniable hooks, striking melodies and slick dance grooves. "That Beep" became a fan favourite, the song memorable for the band's co-ordinated dance routine. It was a surprising interlude that earned audible praise from the venue. The exotic jive of "Heart It Races" found fans in fine voice, usurping the band, lyrics roared and returned to the stage with gusto. A brilliant cover of Londonbeat's "I've Been Thinking About You" and the band's opus "Contact High" helped close an excellent show. Front man Cameron Bird was sure to express immense gratitude for those who worked behind-the-scenes on Moment Bends before thanking the fans. The gesture sealed the deal: the album had been launched and with one hell of a performance, no less. It was a fun night, successfully reflecting the nature of their music.


In retrospect, Architecture In Helsinki's effectively bridged the gap between their support acts. They possessed the ambition and experimentation of Oscar & Martin as well as the strict commercial appeal of Zowie. This should give some insight into why Architecture In Helsinki are without doubt one of the best and most exciting bands going. Highly recommended.

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