Austra: “Feel It Break”

Praise. IMMENSE praise– for the creative development of Katie Stelmanis and her rare, tremulous bird voice, swooping and soaring higher than ever, supported by her bandmates in Austra and the epic production value on their recent release, Feel It Break. Kudos to Bjork/Prodigy/UNKLE producer, Damian Taylor, for lifting them up on his capable shoulders. Such a strong, vivid dream of an album; a “100% dud-free collection”, as Stereogum puts it.

The inevitable Zola Jesus and Karin Dreijer Andersson comparisons are pouring in, and let them. There are some parallels, for sure: dark witchy prowess, shamanic danceability, classically trained chops, sharp songwriting skills, unconventional presentation. It’s electronic pop steeped in earnest ritual.

But dial back the scrumptious bleep and bloop effects a bit. When the arrangement is primarily just Stelmanis and her piano (as with the final, breathtaking track “The Beast”), it becomes clear that the album’s most powerful magic lies simply in that voice. There’s something humbling, and deeply healing, about that.

Highly recommended.

13 Responses to “Austra: “Feel It Break””

  1. Pris Says:

    Amazingly fresh! I agree, Katie’s voice is the central piece, but I’d like to mention the superb songwriting as a key element as well. The album is filled with little sonic mysteries and curiosities that you can’t get out of your head. The songs just grab you and take you away. So familiar, and yet so hard to explain.

  2. Meredith Yayanos Says:

    Ah! Pris, I was just sneaking her a nod to her songwriting in under the post-posted wire when you logged that comment! Hehe, you caught me. :D Yes… she’s a wonderful songsmith, too. So true. I love everything about this record.

  3. Nadya Says:

    Mer, I’m curious: what do you think of the music video for this song?

  4. Meredith Yayanos Says:

    Well, you’ll notice I did not video embed any of their music videos… only the songs. Not because the videos are bad (they’re interesting, definitely), but because I really wanted the focus of the review to be on her singularly beautiful voice and Austra’s songcraft. I heard her music before I ever saw one of her videos, and having watched them after the fact, my opinion was, it’d be better to introduce the songs first, then the visuals. :)

    And you? Fan? Not fond?

  5. Damien Says:

    I’m really enjoying the full arrangement songs, here, but for some reason the embed for ‘The Beast’ is being blocked in the US “for copyright reasons.”

  6. vivacious_g Says:

    I agree with what Pris said about the grabbing and taking away, somehow even sorta kinda reminds me of 80’s electronica/alternative sounds but with more layers. Thanks for posting.

  7. gooby Says:

    When they came out to SF, there were like 3 people at the show. It was sad. My friend ended up paying them out of her own pocket. I’m glad they are getting so much attention now!

  8. Pigskin Pete Says:

    Thnx for the recc. I will give their record a spin.

  9. maggie Says:

    even the short 30-second-amazon-preview tracks for the album had me dancing across my room … in a very weird way. totally bought.

  10. elnigma Says:

    I really liked “Young and Gay” that’s a lush song and interesting.
    “In my hand.. the Fool”

  11. Nadya Says:

    Mer: well.. the first time I saw the video, I was only half paying attention, so I didn’t notice any of the weird webbed hands or other anomalies. I remember one of the comments on Vimeo being: “American Apparel: The Music Video” and I was like, LOL!

    But what I really like about the music video is how, despite how many lovely ladies are in it, it is NOT SEXY AT ALL. I thought that was very intentional and well-done and kind of creepy.

  12. Meredith Yayanos Says:

    I liked it, too… I just don’t the same admiration for it that I do for the music it’s representing. (A little too silly, and not nearly as well made/produced, imo.) But yeah, love it for being “unsexy” in that purposeful, hall-of-mirrors kind of way.

  13. Patricia Says:

    Ooooh! Thank you for this :)