AUSTRA: Feel It Break: LP

Jul 18, 2011

As a fan of most things dark and moody, the current darkwave resurgence (or “gravewave” if you prefer… I sure don’t) should be a real treat for me. But it isn’t. It just seems like a bunch of the turds who were wearing god-knows-what in the pages of Vice Magazine a few months back have now appropriated all of the cool iconology of black metal and are rocking custom Chucks with inverted crosses on them. Fuck that. But luckily, amidst this new parade of clowns, there are some groups expertly nodding to the gloomier side of the ‘80s without quite as much shitty irony (though there always seems to be a smidgen…). Toronto’s Austra, fronted by classically-trained, Latvian-Canadian chanteuse Katie Stelmanis, is one such group. It’s hard to make any comparisons that haven’t been tossed around already (Kate Bush, Eurythmics, even Diamanda Galas’ more accessible moments), but I will say that Austra does a terrific job of blending danceable pop and chilling operatics (think Depeche Mode meets Der Ring or Ligeti maybe? Orff too?), and I’m totally digging it. I had the opportunity to see them play a couple of weeks back, and aside from playing to a backing track (I don’t know if the keyboard was even played at all), Katie Stelmanis’s voice was a mindbomb. So rad.

 –Dave William (Domino)