Austra - Feel It Break

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  • Siouxsie Sioux once said her music reflected the tension of blood splashed on a daisy in the sunshine. The same goes for the debut album of Canadian trio Austra, which offers up a haunting mixture of dark, almost EBM-ish beats, melancholy atmospheres and ghostly female vocals. Drawing openly from an '80s goth-girl playbook, Austra nonetheless feel remarkably contemporary. Credit for that must go to the occasional strange accents and operatic melodies of singer Katie Stelmanis who joins the ranks of Zola Jesus, Bat For Lashes, Beach House, Fever Ray and other new sisters of the moon here. While at times Stelmanis' singing can veer into Broadway musical territory, by and large the vocal acrobatics are neatly counterbalanced by moody, often bell-like synths and gritty rhythms. On "Hate Crime" Stelmanis sings in birdlike cadence "I don't want to sympathize with the darknessï," a psychic struggle mirrored by the album's push and pull between beauty and ugliness. "Darken Her Horse," the album's opener, is representative of what you'll get. Beginning in moody s ance, it revs up to a mid-tempo, big-snare stomp anchored by a plaintive wail. Once you've finished it, you've heard most of the record. The band has squeezed as much juice as they can out of one particular sound, and while they have done so very effectively, Feel It Break comes off a bit monochromatic as a result. The robust synth riffs on the highly-touted lead single "Beat and The Pulse" help the tune to stand out from its kin. It's a big-boned stomper with fists clenched, showing all the analog muscle and militaristic stride of a Belgian New Beat classic. Stelmanis' vocals soar up an octave on the chorus, evoking a yearning angel that has momentarily escaped the throes of an industrial grind. "The Choke" is perhaps the next-catchiest tune, bearing a warbling melody matched by warm, IDM-y burbles, steadily gathering energy like a New Age crystal. Feel It Break feels a bit front-loaded: its second half sags a bit with more ballad-oriented material, but closes on a strong note with "The Beast" which feels very Tori Amos (I mean that in a good way) and reflects the group's melodramatic singer-songwriter core underlying its flirtations with edgy dance music. If Art Department provides the beats for a vampire nightclub, consider Feel It Break well-suited for the after-party.
  • Tracklist
      01. Darken Her Horse 02. Lose It 03. The Future 04. Beat And The Pulse 05. Spellwork 06. The Choke 07. Hate Crime 08. The Villain 09. Shoot The Water 10. The Noise 11. The Beast