Architecture in Helsinki - Cambridge APU
With the weather being so unseasonably mild at the moment, it's a little surreal to be sitting outside a pub in late October waiting to go to a gig. Perhaps the numerous Australians who make up Architecture in Helsinki have brought this weather over with them, or perhaps their cheery tunes and sunny disposition have affected more than just the audience caught under their spell.
The evening starts off a little lower key, however. Three young, skinny people get on the stage, all dressed in black and proceed to play some of the best post-rock music I've heard since first encountering Godspeed! You Black Emperor. These guys are The Resistance. These have obviously been influenced by events, music and culture from around the globe. With no vocalist, they create some open soundscapes over the backing of beats from a, now obligatory, iMac. Reminding me of 65daysofstatic they perform to the backdrop of some video art showing scenes that wouldn't look out of place from Orwell's 1984. Its an impressive show that once they get over the obvious nerves of playing a larger venue, they command respect.
Things change quite dramatically with the next band Colonel Bastard. I'm not sure what to think about these guys - taking cues firmly from early 90's Blur with some of the more pop elements of XTC, I'm a little confused as to where these guys fit in. They seem a bit more of an obvious choice for supporting Architecture - they're fun, upbeat and sing songs about their love of tea. The crowd also seem to really like them too and I think I'm in the minority of dissenters.
So, after a small delay, we're ready to experience the full on Architecture in Helsinki experience. It's been a while too - this was a rescheduled gig from July when they were supposed to be playing the evening of the London bombings but understandably cancelled after the days events. The first thing that hits you is how many of them there are - the stage at the APU isn't very big and it looks like a tight fit for all EIGHT of them plus all their instruments. We've got trombones, tubas, keyboards, guitars, laptops all jousting for not just our attention, but the band members attention too. What doesn't help is that a couple of songs in, just as they appear to be hitting their stride, the laptop suffers a crash (typical!) and there's a small delay as a replacement in brought on stage.
At the second attempt though, they seem to want to make up for it. Tearing through songs mainly off their new album, they get the crowd on side easily. Everyone wants to bounce around and everyone has a smile on their face. They never stand still for a moment - everyone is changing instruments between songs, changing vocalists, I'd like to think it was organised chaos, but I can't be sure. What I can be sure of is that the sound that they do create is impressive. In my mind Architecture has always been the missing link between the Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire, the music may sometimes sound a little twee, but it's always an impressive mix of instruments. It's no wonder they need the laptop to oversee and conduct proceedings.
The only thing that put a bit of a negative spin on proceedings was lead instrumentalist Cameron Bird's bad mood - or at least what I perceived to be that. Looking a little grumpy, he was almost glad to be saying that "We won't be coming back for some time" before playing the last song. Not returning for an encore also seemed a little out of character, bumping into one of the other vocalists after the show she mentioned being chuffed to play here and really enjoyed it. So I tried to not feel a little disappointed by the ending and just reminded myself of the good time feeling they created during Neverevereverdid where the angelic vocals seemed to give the feeling of a July evening somewhere exotic, not just an unfeasibly warm October evening in Cambridge.
Pictures courtesy of www.valerioberdini.com