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Austra: Feel It Break

Dark, sexy, and cryptic, Toronto’s Austra hits the holy trinity of synthesizer music on Feel It Break. “I came so hard in your mouth,” coos onetime opera hopeful Katie Stelmanis, “I saw the future / It was dark.” Bolstered by crystalline keys, Eurodance pulse, and layers of Kate Bush-like yips, “The Future” should be enough to knock a goth geek on his back, but the sentiment falls flat. Stelmanis courts the emotional distance of The Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson—the tense, throbbing “Darken Her Horse” could pass for a Silent Shout outtake—but her voice is too warm for all that iciness. It’s also too grand for the kind of intimate, elemental pop Glasser does so well. So where does that leave Austra? For most of her debut, Stelmanis pays tribute to the past, relying on the high drama and dated synths of Cocteau Twins (“Hate Crime”), the clangy darkwave pioneered by Gary Numan (“The Villain”), and again, the jaunty, syllable-stretching weirdness of Kate Bush (“Shoot The Water”). Austra is best when all three influences expertly converge—like on the groove-steeped creeper “Beat And The Pulse”—or when none of them bother showing at all, as on the epic closer “The Beast,” where Stelmani soars, quavers, and eventually queries, “Am I free now?” over raw piano. Not quite, but Feel It Break is the sound of the songbird sizing up her cage.


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