There’s no point in hiding the fact that I absolutely adored Halou and its fair share of incredible albums leading to their break up back in 2008. Unfortunately I got to that party a little late and when I was starting to discover just how amazing they were, they ceased to exist… Funny how life works sometimes.
But at the same time, just as almost everything else in life, there are second chances (strong emphasis on that almost), and Stripmall Architecture can count as a second chance for all of us that somehow came up short with Halou. However I can’t stress enough the fact that we shouldn’t regard Stripmall Architecture simply as Halou with another name, even though it is basically the same people behind it.
At the very beginning I was genuinely hoping for they to just pick up where Halou left off and I’m pretty sure I would have loved that album just as much, but deep inside of me I know that the right choice was to follow the natural evolution that We Were Flying Kites represents. Of course, you just can’t discard your loyal fanbase and come up with something radically different, and naturally this album retains the unadulterated essence of the good old days, but is subtle enough to introduce some new elements to the formula and the result is that you get to enjoy something very familiar and at the same time feeling like you’re actually listening to something new.
From this transition I reckon that some of the trademark whispering voice and somewhat dreamy sound seems to be gone. It still sounds like the good old Halou, but it is somehow a little bit bolder and still carrying a confident attitude towards their music. And that’s probably what I’m enjoying more about Stripmall Architecture, the fact that the blurry line between trip hop and dream pop is no longer that blurry and this truly is dream pop at its best. Those almost whispering, magical moments are still there, not in the same fashion and probably for not that long as you remember, but still worth checking out.
The vocal part has always been and will continue to be the highlight in any record Rebecca Coseboom performs, and this new era, starting with this album is not the exception. However I’d like to point out that it’s not just the voice, the instrumental performance adds a lot and it does a little more than just “being there”. I mean, it’s not like it is going to blow you away (or maybe it will, who knows), but there will definitely be some moments when you will want to crank the volume up just to enjoy how good everything fits together.
We Were Flying Kites took me some time before it started to grow on me, it did felt a little bit cold and not very personal at the beginning, but it gets all warm and very enjoyable towards the end. It is not an acquired taste, that’s for sure, and maybe some others will find it extremely enjoyable right from the beginning, for me it just took some time but in the end it actually delivered. One of the most exciting bands from the San Francisco musical scene I’ve had the chance to explore so far.
If you are anything like me, you will find this genre a little bit tricky to explore. Sometimes mislabeled as trip hop, the dream pop scene has some very interesting acts, and if you fancy the likes of Stripmall Architecture (or Halou for general purposes), most recommendations of similar artists tend to point you back to trip hop. But now that I think about it, it also works the other way around, I started with the trip hop, and ended up landing in dream pop terrain.
It’s a good thing that this group of musicians is still around. Never mind the name, they are still around and that’s all that matters.