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Concert Review/ I Am The Architect

img  Tobias Fischer

It must be a good feeling to know time's on your side. A full one and a half years have passed since I last saw I Am The Architect play live at the Sputnick Cafe and thanks to the rawness and intensity on display back then, the band seemed poised for a tentative breakthrough or at least a plethora of tour dates. Things have, however, turned out differently, with the recording of the debut taking much longer than expected and the formation withdrawing into a state of temporary hibernation. Now, out of the blue almost, they are suddenly back again and the gig tonight must even be considered a preliminary acme on their CV: Over the years, Münster's  Eurocityfest, not exactly a pinnacle of experimental culture to begin with, has gradually degenerated from a star-struck summer-party to a random splattering of cover-bands and mediocre AOR, but the 2010 edition has proven somewhat of a turning point, with local organisation muensterbandnetz being given full freedom in programming a diverse selection of artists from town, ranging from Flower-Power Guitar-elves to sweaty Ska. Leading this line-up of completely unknown but all the more passionate groups in front of a sizable and colourful audience, I Am The Architect are given a comeback-opportunity every band would dream of.

Seeing them step onto the stage in front of the rather unstately city hall, one immediately wonders whether the formation have always been this big. Sporting a massive member count of seven, the formation, among others, comprises of a triple Guitar-section lined up in the front row like a Roman phalanx ready for battle. Newbie Frieda is missing from the line-up today, but the absence of her Violin-lines is more than made up by the prominent position of Keyboards and Synthesizers, adding fairytale-like Glockenspiel and spacey sound effects to the already richly orchestrated mix. None of that is audible, however, during their first track, which sounds as though the guy behind the mixing console had fallen asleep on the upper frequencies' mute-buttons: With the podium drenched in otherworldly blue light, all you can hear is a ghostly Bass-wobble and a slow, succulent Drum-groove combining into a sort of unwanted Proto-Dub pierced by far-off Guitar-streaks and forming the outlines of a song that could, perhaps, be „Walking in Regret“.

Even standing all the way back, we can see Lead-Guitarist Jörn's index finger pointing upward at the end of the piece, indicating that he can barely hear himself. His hint is thankfully heeded and by the third track, I Am The Architect have found the clarity and balance required for their intricate melodies, carefully developed chord progressions, filigree textures and multitimbral arrangements. If anything, the gig tonight proves that the aforementioned Sputnick Cafe performance, with its ragged charm, was less indicative of the direction the band want to pursue than their more subtle support slot for Post-Rock leaders This Will Destroy You a little earlier that year. Compared to the aggressive wall-of-sound-tactics of some of their colleagues, their music is all about laying down a mood and then delving into it with an eye for detail and an ear for discrete shadings. Rather than exploding into supernovas of noise and distortion, it brachiates from one dreamy passage and one lovingly sustained chord to the next, discharging into heavenly harmonic fireworks only at select and well-timed moments or entering hypnotic sequences of mantra-like repetition for an immersive, trance-inducing effect. The genre-typical anthemic tremolos are submerged into the overall structure, creating an atmospheric fog rather than screeching screams of pent-up emotions.

This way, the band are capable of awarding an precisely mapped-out sound to their tracks and turn composition rather than muscle into their focal point. At times, this makes them sound something like an Indie-Pop band on a Progressive Rock-trip, at others like an Ambient Metal-band playing the soundtrack to a performance of contemporary ballet. Without ever sounding pretentious or contrived for just over fifty minutes, the Septet keep the fire simmering, their concert a brittle journey akin to arthouse cinema rather than Hollywood-overkill. „Remote Control“ is allowed to linger for almost a full ten minutes and „Quit“, with its recognisable Piano-motive floats gently through a string of psychedelic chord-changes before errupting into a muffled outburst of serene Guitar signals. Nervous electronic percussion awards the opening of bleeding ballad „Silence, Silence“ with a nocturnal air of expectation, sorrow and inexplicable hope. Even though their pieces would doubtlessly benefit from a more intimate club-setting, there is every reason to believe the latter will not be in vain: Having put the past one and a half years to good use, I Am The Architect are currently searching for a record label. Things may yet take time, but then that's exactly what this band doesn't seem to be worried about.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: I Am The Architect

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