So what do you picture when I mention the term “architecture?” Probably something grand in scale, like a skyscraper or a
cathedral. Maybe even something a little smaller, a little more rustic, like a house. But I’ll bet that a stripmall never came to mind. However, for some strange reason, today’s artist made that correlation, hence the band name Stripmall Architecture.
It’s that kind of creative, off-the-wall thinking that makes this San Francisco band’s recent release Feathersongs for Factory Girls such an interesting listen. It’s the first of a two-part EP series filled with inventive, electronic-based music that flows like a river through an active forest beneath a clear, starlit sky; it’s gentle and relaxing, and even the background noise somehow adds to the overall sense of serenity despite its seeming disorder.
Band members Rebecca and Ryan Coseboom have previously worked with such artists as DJ Shadow, John Cale of The Velvet Underground, and Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins. This wide variety of musical experience is apparent in Feathersongs with its ever-present dreaminess and diversity of styles ranging from experimental rock to synth pop and even to classical. For example, the first track of the album, “Radium Girls,” definitely has a much more of a distorted alternative rock feel to it with its buzzing guitars, whereas “Pripyat” is very reminiscent of Imogen Heap’s light-hearted, ambient synth pop.
As hard as it is to pick and choose from a great collection of songs like this, even if it only consists of five tracks, the clear stand-out track for me is “There’s Only So Much Light.” There is a certain chaotic contradiction in the instrumentation of this song that makes it very beautiful. It begins with a grinding bassline that is quickly joined by the warped wailing of an electric guitar. Throughout the rest of the song, these sounds are constantly set against the sweet strokes of piano keys, the gossamer sounds of violins, and Rebecca Coseboom’s breezy singing. Even though it might seem as if these elements would not work well together, they mesh incredibly well to create a saddened, emotionally fractured state reflects the melancholy lyrics:
There’s only so much light
You take more than your share
There’s only so much love
You take more than your share
In short, Stripmall Architecture is a very inventive group that manages to collect a wide variety of influences and genres into Feathersongs for Factory Girls without stylistically overextending themselves or confining themselves to an easy definition. This band’s work is recommended for those of you who are interested in a some experimentalism in their music without it being way off the beaten path of normalcy. Or if you just want some interesting, easy-going tunes for a lone night a relaxed contemplation, this album is great for that too.
By the way, Stripmall Architecture also released a remix album called Pripyat and the Halcyon Versions. You can digitally download this album from Bandcamp for $3 or order the CD for $8, also from Bandcamp. The CD comes with remix stems from “Radium Girls,” “Pripyat,” and “A Trick of Light” from Feathersongs for Factory Girls. Below is a streaming version of the album: