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On top, down under

Architecture in Helsinki toots its own horn

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As Australia's Architecture in Helsinki trumps through their U.S. tour, TV ads flout Rock Star, an American Idol-like saga where the winner becomes INXS' next lead crooner. Unfortunately, with the addition of Midnight Oil and Kylie Minogue, music from down under is characterized in many stateside minds as that lopsided trinity. Architecture in Helsinki, an eight-piece Melbourne combo who play Cat's Cradle on Friday, June 17, differs wildly with its allegorical pop opera sense and beat enough for serious shaking.

"I wouldn't say the Australian experience really shapes this band," says AIH leader Cameron Bird during a stop in Minneapolis. "But basically being on the other side of the world has had a little to do with the new album."

In Case We Die, the group's second full-length, blossoms from the opener and continues as a colossal, melodic tidal wave teaming with sub-currents of trombone, organ, shakers and alternating lead vocals by Bird and Kellie Sutherland, all the while dealing with impending death and life absurdities.

"The album is about the weird, dark, existential parts of your life when you wonder what your life is worth and what you are actually doing with it," Bird says. "The songs are a lot more psychological than our first album. And musically there is a lot of hip hop and tropicalla influence happening."

Akin to countrymen The Cannanes in that both have mastered the duality of nuance, fierceness with a four-minute wonderwold, AIH on stage, and throughout In Case We Die, flow as a chattering spring day while pulling in orchestral and folk hinted at by the Incredible String Band's Wee Tam. A carnival of bubbling voices, alternating horn section and echoing disco dance sense give the impression this Helsinki eight is more like 20 strong.

"Eight is enough," Bird says. "With that many people and instruments it kinda makes it hard to shake your ass on the stage, but we try every night."

Architecture in Helsinki performs Friday, July 17 at the Cat's Cradle. Music starts at 9 p.m. Dr. Dog opens. Tickets are $8.

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