written by Chris Familton
We’ve seen a steady influx of strong, theatrical voiced female singers emerging in electronic pop music over the last few years with the likes of Florence & The Machine, The Knife and Zola Jesus rising to prominence. Now you can add the rather plainly named Austra to that list.
Austra is primarily the vehicle for the songs of Katie Stelmanis, a classically trained Canadian singer who has previously released solo material and played with local bands in Toronto. Now her talents have ben realised in Austra, a band that harnesses the dark drama of goth synth pop from the 80s without an ounce of pastiche or nostalgia. You can hear touchstones like early Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Soft Cell in their sound but they have been updated with a modern production sheen. It retains the analog feel of the instruments and at the same time makes the songs feel utterly contemporary.
Stelmanis’ voice is at the core of Feel It Break. She has that same tone and waver that Siouxsie Sioux, Kate Bush and even Bjork all share in varying degrees. She brings the drama and weight of emotion to music that might otherwise sound good but uninspired. On Lose it she fills the song with yearning while on the robotic disco pulse of single Beat & The Pulse she sounds coy and sensual. The Choke lets some light into the room with a sweeter melodic touch and on Hate Crime she allows herself unrestrained Kate Bush impersonations.
Feel It Break is a fantastic sounding album where an exceptional voice is given free rein over a wonderfully complementary musical landscape. You get the sense more and possibly better is still to come from Austra but for now mark this down as one of the years best debut releases.
this review first appeared in Drum Media