Jan 17, 2017 Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary
Toronto-based Austra's third album, Future Politics, pushes their modus of uptempo mystic darkwave permeated by airy goth song. At home in the frosty confines continuing to surround her, lead singer, keyboardist, and producer Katie Stelmanis soars over a bolstered field of production and through spirited themes addressing the forces that prompt reaction. What commands attention, as ever, are the farther reaches found by Stelmanis' voice, with a resonance not shared by many of her wave-tronica contemporaries.
Musically, the scope is grand and sweeping, a natural evolution from 2013's already dynamic Olympia, with arrangement contribution from drummer/producer Maya Postepski and Moog sound designing from bassist Dorian Wolf. These deeper aural valleys counterbalance the measure of her pronouncements, which more firmly stamp her music with purpose. Lyrically, the themes of Future Politics divulge her course in coming to terms with being an emotional creature driven by senses, up against cultural suppression—ideas largely shaped by Stelmanis' observation of society while recently living in Mexico City. Stelmanis reveals a weary heart, contrarily through a projection of power and defiance, with a voice that ascends like it would in a hallowed hall.
Mostly captivating, the limitations of this mood space start to emerge when the feel of the music stagnates. It's actually within the more minimal tone fabrics that her songs become most hypnotic, ebbing and flowing above its vaporous trails. "Beyond a Mortal" is an experimental potion with this effect, while the clever rhythm of "I'm a Monster" slips into a trance wormhole, offering transport to her cry, "Am I a fool to think that maybe/If I could shift these parts around/By catalysis or brawn/I'd get something back?"
Austra's gravitas is felt through Stelmanis belting her operatic tenor-which is as clean cut as a soldier's scalp and calls from the outer limits of her Moroder-esque production that's both cubic and fluid. In unusual ways, she recalls Stevie Nicks with the dramatic flair of Madonna, ambitiously exploring structures as unorthodox as some of Björk's dwellings and concepts as disruptive. (www.austramusic.com)
Author rating: 6.5/10
Average reader rating: 8/10
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