There's a lot of good electro-pop around at the moment; the kind
of stuff which plunders the past (especially the eighties) and
drags the genre back into focus with cool contemporary elan.
There's something about Austra, however, which sets them somewhat
apart from their contemporaries. There is a strange magic at work
in their new album 'Feel It Break'. This has much to do with the
voice of Katie Stelmanis; it is an extraordinary instrument!
Timeless; kind-of folksy-cum-summer-of-love-cum-classical-android.
(You will have to listen to it yourself and post me your own
attempts at describing it - I'm struggling here) I love it to bits!
Ms Stelmanis is assisted in her labours by bass player Dorian Wolf
and drummer Maya Postepski. There are eleven tracks in the collection.
The formula is a fairly simple one : sparkling synth chords and
arpeggios; four-square beats and quirky quasi-medieval arrangements.
It is the vocal performances, however, which bring the material to
sparkling life. Ms Stelmanis has a big range. She can sound almost
manly in her lower register but when she cranks it up to the top of
the stave she tweets and warbles like a happy nightingale on a warm
June evening! (You can hear her do both on 'The Future). The harmonies
are simple but haunting and the choruses curiously memorable.
I particularly enjoyed the sombre-hued (Bjork-ish) opening track
'Darken Her Horse', which would not sound out of place if played in a
Gothic catherdral by candlelight; the dense grinding textures of 'Spellwork'
(Ms Stelmanis' deadpan delivery is chilling on this one!) and the piano
flurries and wildly witchy vocals of spooky closing track 'The Beast'.
Music for the heart of an ancient oak forest at midnight.