Feel It Break
Toronto trio Austra works with a simple synth/drum/bass palette, rooted in the ‘80s sounds farmed both by commercial bands like Depeche Mode and a number of artists in the 4AD stable. Katie Stelmanis’ remarkable, lightly tremeloed voice has an ethereal quality, with a dark spirit and a lost-soul plaintiveness that is sturdier than, say, Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser. (The band has covered Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” a tune well suited to Stelmanis’ voice.) Synths are the core of Austra’s sound — they gurgle and purr (albeit, darkly and often fuzzily) when in dance mode, glide and glisten and glare in atmospherics mode; the crisp, skeletal drums of Maya Postepski and Dorian Wolf’s understated bass are the sturdy armature around which the tunes swirl. A song like “Beat and the Pulse” puts the band clearly in the electronica arena — it’s quiet, cool, slightly foreboding and sensual. But tracks like “Lose It” belie an ear for pop-dom, with a trilling, sing-along chorus and appealing — dare we say “happy” — dance beat. If you are utterly enchanted with Stelmanis’ (classically trained) voice, seek out her previous solo work.