Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Brad Kopplin and Haima Marriott
The rare of the rare in our modern times is a feeling of being somewhere, in a place where no one or thing else is, where all of the outside cluttering muck can be voided into blind blackness or blankness. It's a considerably monstrous state of mind, situational algorithm that expands and contracts like pavements during Midwestern winters, giving us a pothole problem that's worse than any vermin could create. It's a thought that comes to us this week as we lost Sir Edmund Hillary at the age of 88, the man who scaled Mount Everest for the first time. He was there before anyone else, forging up to the peak easily toward the end, reaching it and only realizing it when there was no more up to pull to, just open space in front, to the side, up and down from him and he soaked it in for a few minutes before he and his Sherpa turned around and went back down - all 29,028 feet. Now there have been over 3,000 successful ascents to the tippy-top of the deadly mountain - a thing that George Mallory tried climbing with the reasoning, "Because it is there," and a thing that Edmund scaled and then famously called a bastard, a defeated one - and it's the touristy thing to do for someone with an adventurous streak in them. It's not a big deal and it's impossible to feel that others aren't around or haven't been.
The boundary waters in Canada are akin to that feeling, that sinking and exhilarating isolation. You can get a sensation of that in the music of Australian band Architecture In Helsinki, that of the uncharted waters that take a leap off the edge of the world to get to. It is a letting go, a tossing off of the grand derivative and an exploration of all the creaks and ghostly sounds that flux like a strobe light through any acting body worth a damn. Sometimes I wonder what my body talks about when I'm sleeping, the conversations that it carries amongst itself, the tissues all butting in for their two cents before they have to punch the clock again. AIH comes from these forums, these unspoken dalliances with the secret dialogue, handshake and knock. It feels as if they can stand alone, as if they're standing on the deck of a ship in the middle of a gigantic ocean, free of all mankind and its machinations. There's no holier or eerie feeling than one of being on one of those decks in the middle of a night, no lights and no shores anywhere in any direction, just a splashing of salt water as the ship knives through the hateful sea, disgusted by the intrusion. Architecture In Helsinki's Cameron Bird, a gangly rendering of a man, slight and pasty, works instinctually and must feel more alone in the world as we've been talking about than included. He could contain within his bosom a million combinations and variations to all of the songs he's previously written and committed to tape, given away as temporarily formed children, ones made of the magical ingredients in Etch-A-Sketch contraptions. He can shake them up, the grains jumbling and rearranging, into dramatically altered interpretations, owing their reinventions only to the racing imaginations of a man with accomplices who can't just let the music sit pretty and be in a hardened cast. Bird likely doesn't hear his thoughts - the music is too loud - his dreaming too amplified, the bridges and choruses playing out between his ears as an unstoppable loop, looking to drive out the competition.
It's how the songs from the band's latest, Places Like This, present themselves, as objects of precise obsession - with repetitive hooks going through the halls like a horsefly incessantly zipping back and forth, trapped between the windows and curtains, without a way to freedom. You hear the inspirations buzzing and coming at you from behind like an ice cream truck (because all of this is the enjoyable kind of constancy) if its bells, horns and whistles were as jarring, yet as chipper as those of emergency vehicles. The sounds and their variations, the ones that promulgate the interest of Bird's mind, are high fructose in serving and primal in their existence, generating spasms of other-worldly happiness and persistence. It's a promenade of augustly charming second nature, unshakable and for the empty spaces to be lit up with.
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Architecture In Helsinki