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Architecture in Helsinki: Moment Bends (Downtown/V2)

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What happened here? It's the question asked by the detective at the crime scene, and regarding this Australian outfit's latest effort, it's also the beginning of the conversation. Asking the question does not insinuate castigation, though any admiration is likely to be mixed.

It's easy to hazard a guess why this high-charged group has stylistically shifted into dreamy electro-pop. For one thing, four years (the length between the group's albums) is a long time for any idea to germinate, and even a bad decision gains esteem over time.

In fairness, the easy charms, sea-breeze synth and beguiling beats of opener "Desert Island" and the fractured, throbbing funk of "Contact High" are winning. The loose, racing jangle of "Escapee," with its manic vocals, even convincingly harkens back to the group's best work.

Still, what was novel loses steam, and repeat listens tarnish the album's luster. For once, Architecture in Helsinki's music isn't fussy and demanding, but airy and clean. Unfortunately, the same applies to Muzak.

Whether it's the placating electronics of "W.O.W." or the M.J.-lite dramatics of "Everything's Blue," it all bleeds together into a sleepy (fine) yet forgettable (not so fine) assortment of music.

Experimenting is not intrinsically wrong, and there is enough here to suggest that some balance between their present and past lives will unveil the true, best version of Architecture in Helsinki. Still, as luminaries like Dylan and Bowie have shown, experimentation does not necessarily mean redoing the core, just the shell.

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