Stripmall Architecture: We Were Flying Kites
Stripmall Architecture

That We Were Flying Kites lists six names on its inner sleeve—Rebecca Coseboom, Ryan Coseboom, Patrick Harte, Tim Hingston, Roberto Burgos, and Erica Mulkey—is a telling gesture: though led by one-time Halou duo Rebecca and Ryan Coseboom (that outfit was retired at the end of 2008), Stripmall Architecture clearly sounds like a band project as opposed to the Cosebooms with pick-up musicians. Having said that, even a cursory listen to the album reveals that the Cosebooms are still very much in charge, an impression reinforced by the fact that they're the sole songwriters.

Stripmall Architecture's sound, which one might generally characterize as a hybrid of gauzy shoegaze and guitar-driven indie-rock, is heavier than any of the other outfits with which the Cosebooms have been involved (consider “Gladhander” and its stabbing electric guitars as evidence). Those of a more cynical disposition might call it a more calculated sound too, the thought being that the material's harder-edged attack will have a broader appeal than either of the recent Halou or R/R Coseboom releases (Wholeness & Separation and Beneath Trembling Lanterns, both released on Dynamophone); the more charitable listener might just as easily argue that Stripmall Architecture is simply an outlet for the heavier side of the Cosebooms' music-making. Certainly “What's Wrong With the Kids Today?” blasts forth from the speakers with an anthemic roar yet, even so, it's a controlled fury that's not so blistering it overpowers the song's pop melodies.

The dreamy quality of their previously issued music isn't entirely absent on We Were Flying Kites, either, as tracks such as “Bleached White” make evidently clear. Even when the songs are more aggressively pitched, Rebecca Coseboom's distinctive voice remains firmly in place. And neither does We Were Flying Kites draw a sharp separation between it and past projects; some tracks could just as easily appear on a R/R Coseboom release (the electronic ballad “Beauty is Suffering” and dramatic “The Droplet Sounds,” for example), and the album isn't an anti-electronics screed by any means; electronic treatments are present, if often subtly woven into the guitar-laced fabric. Interestingly, songs like “A Trick of Light” and “Her Words” call to mind the albums L'Altra and Telefon Tel Aviv issued on Hefty a half-decade ago (Different Days and Map of What is Effortless, respectively), specifically the tracks where L'Altra's Lindsay Anderson appears, as the voices of Anderson and Rebecca Coseboom share a fragile and ethereal quality .

January 2010