Architecture in Helsinki with Aqueduct and Dr. dog at Rancho Relaxo (300 College), Saturday (October 1). Sold out. 416-920-0366. Rating: NNNNN
They're known as Architecture in Helsinki, but the Melbourne-based pop orchestra has left many who've heard the hodge-podge barrage of their In Case We Die (Bar/None) disc believing they hail not from Australia or even Finland, but rather from Canada.
It could have something to do with the joyously shouted choruses by a large cast of contributors plinking, tooting and bashing on a variety of instruments from marimba and melodica to musical saw and Farfisa Matador organ (and that's just the m's), which brings to mind the freewheeling experiments of currently fashionable Canucks Broken Social Scene, Hidden Cameras and the Arcade Fire.
Then again, it may just be that the Architecture in Helsinki folks have pleasanter dispositions than similarly oversized ensembles from other countries.
"I've heard the Canadian thing before, and I take it as a compliment," says frontman Cameron Bird. "I'd much rather be mistaken for a Canadian than an American.
"It's funny that because of the name some people assume I'm an expert in Finnish design. I had an interview with a journalist from a fairly well-known architecture digest in Helsinki who seemed a bit disappointed. But I've since done some Googling and I do have a bit of a vocab on the subject now."
Those who've been following the musical adventures of Architecture in Helsinki will notice there's been a dramatic shift in sound from their Avalanches-inspired Fingers Crossed debut to the more elaborately orchestrated In Case We Die. According to percussionist James Cecil, there's a simple explanation.
"We only began to play as an eight-piece after we finished the first album," he explains. "In the two years of touring that followed, I think we became more confident, and by the time we came to do the second album we were much more together as a band and better prepared to record."
Though the recording's freewheeling vibe sounds as though it was captured live at a wild late-evening loft soiree, Cecil claims the songs on In Case We Die were actually composed and carefully arranged by Bird to create that party atmosphere.
"We wanted to create a sense of a live recording, but we didn't know exactly how to achieve it in the studio. So we had a few people come over and pushed them into some strange vocal improvisations by having them pretend to be wild animals in the jungle while we rolled tape.
"Each song was assembled piece by piece from the parts played by different members," Cecil continues. "Cameron produced the album, and I engineered it at Super Melody World, which took us about eight months of working all day every day.
"We drew up a huge spreadsheet with all the parts to all the songs, and set about crossing off all the boxes one at a time. It started off being very systematic, but things took different tangents and became more organic as we progressed."
The members of Architecture in Helsinki are apparently thrilled by the prospect of coming to Toronto, not because they're convinced Canada is their spiritual home, but because of Degrassi Junior High.
"We're huge fans of the show," shouts Bird. "We're putting all the cast members' names on the guest list, so we hope they'll come to see us. We actually do a cover of the Zit Remedy's Everybody Wants Something. It's an integral part of our set."