Austra: Feel It break

Austra

Domino/Paper Bag

This bracing antidote to flirty summer fun never really had its day in the sun on original release. Hoping to redress that, we'll get the big ups out of the way. Feel It Break is intelligent, quirky, broody synth pop, Goth guitar rock with a dance club sensibility and the soaring vocals of opera-trained underground diva Katie Stelmanis. With its forceful production and stronger emphasis on rhythm Feel It Break may piss off Austra fans that cling to the ethereal sounds of debut album Katie Stelmanis. There's some of that here but there's so much that's unexpected also.

When first single "Beat And The Pulse" dropped last year, it was thought to be an experimental one-of; instead, it was the sign of things to come and with Feel It Break, those things have arrived full force.

Dark electronic and searing, histrionic vocals are reminiscent of Fever Ray and early Kate Bush but this Katie brings her own high-drama operatic nuances to the proceedings.

Stelmanis' childhood experience with the Canadian Opera Company is evident as she delivers lines that are alternately delicate and booming.

Hard at work behind the voice, Austra the band are keeners for high-gloss, stacatto coldwave vibes closer to Nine Inch Nails than anythng contemporary. It's retro, it's futuro, it's epic and you can dance to its ofttimes dark subject mater.

Katie goes after back-stabbers with Wagnerian sterness on "Darken Her Horse", the sexually charged "Lose It" featues an Operatic trill that makes every glass in earshot nervous and the bold perfection of 'Beat And The Pulse', with Katie's vulnerable gasps contrasting with a demanding and steely vocal are all outstanding moments.

Beyond this point, a samenes in the sound creeps in. While what Austra is doing now is credible enough to grant them some breathing space, songs like "The Choke" and "Hate Crime" blend into one another with little to set them apart, coming across almost half-finished.

Closer "The Beast", featuring Stelmanis at the piano and easing up somewhat for this striped down ballad, offers a welcome change up.

The odd stumble and dash of over-eagerness apart, this is a solid, career building effort. Should make for a helluva live set too.

Lenny Stoute