Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Austra: Feel It Break Album Review

 Esoteric electro that will charm you on first listen...

I am so in love with Austra’s spellbinding dark side electro, the eerie and building tracks are full of fantasy and a stark pulse with a backdrop of pagan references and spooked up beeps that result in the most perfect witchery gothpop. The Canadian trio, Katie Stelmanis, Maya Postepski and Dorian Wolf really have co written, produced and captured a wonderfully esoteric feel in their music.    

The album is drenched with Depeche Mode, not in an irritating parroting way but rather in an inspired and beautiful concoction, with the added bonus of Katie’s classically trained musical charm…and charm she certainly does.

Opening with the melodrama and perfection of ‘Darken Her Horse’, Katie’s vocals build slowly backed by the gradual creation of sounds as if she’s using the music to enchant and gather those around her until the drums kick in. It’s a build up in a mysterious ritualistic way that leaves you lost.


It sets a pace for the rest of the album which has bass lines that consume in that dark yet uplifting way, putting you into a trance like state as if burning into your soul…sound too much? It’s just pure brilliance and I’m sure the most stubborn of wallflowers would want to move in time under Katie’s spell.

Lose It’ moves on with vocal trickery and more melodrama as she wails banshee-like about loss and chants ‘in the darkness comes, another another’.  Divining with musical insight in ‘The Future’, Katie’s vocal range is sounding very Fever Ray inspired.

Already reviewed here has been the debut single ‘Beat and the Pulse’, yes you remember the one with the video of nipples, outrageous, well no not really, more ridiculous was that youtube blurred them. The video is arty erotic and portrays perfectly female sexuality and empowerment, certainly not in a  ‘Nuts’ magazine nonsense kind of way that creeps through into the mainstream media elsewhere. ‘Beat and the Pulse’ is exactly as the title suggests, all consuming and spine tingling, alongside Mode, there is definitely that Fever Ray tribalistic feel to this one too.

‘Spellwork’ trickles momentarily and then kicks in suddenly with a strong ‘Black Celebration’ feel. All things crossed this is a single as its otherworldly brilliance shows her voice and the machines manifesting a very danceable track.

‘The Choke’ with its beguiling vocals and deep synths is pure gorgeousness and has a definite touch of Kate Bush enchantment. ‘Hate Crime’ and ‘The Villain’ go yet deeper  with Katie not partaking but observing from afar, lost in her own creative meltdown of the dark side of reality without self indulging but using the music as its judgement.

For the last three tracks, a different path in the album seems to be taken for me with the jerky introduction of ‘Shoot the Water’ but still with Austra mantras weaved into the lyrical message. The circular movement of the bleeps and vocals becomes a bit intoxicating in its magic. 

The anguish of ‘The Noise’ gives way to some more chanting, completely losing any sense of definition of reality and fantasy as this track bridges the two dimensions and Austra for the first time bring in a guitar rift rather successfully.

Feel It Break ends with the beautiful ‘The Beast’ on rolling piano, a lovely comedown from the intoxication of the previous tracks and almost makes you feel like you have surrendered finally, drifting in this quite lovely euphoric ending.  Once you come round from the tranquilising affect this band has on you, you will surely switch this overwhelming and deliciously dark treat back on. I know I did. It’s bewitching with striking contrasts of simplicity yet fanciful and incongruities of down tempo that makes you feel up, up and away. If you like your electro shadowy, Feel It Break will become your ‘familiar’.

Must listens:

'Darken Her Horse'
'The Beast'

'Feel It Break' is released on May 16th

Related links:

Austra official site
Austra on Soundcloud
Domino Records

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