Austra: HiRUDiN (Domino) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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May 01, 2020 Austra Bookmark and Share

It’s hard to get a take on Katie Austra Stelmanis, better known simply as Austra. It’s also hard not to like her sensual, electro-influenced, classical vibe. Her ever-evolving career path has seen a rollercoaster of genre-bending and style-shifting, from the dark and moody to danceable synth-pop to soothing new age and back again. HiRUDiN, Stelmanis’ fourth album as Austra, continues this trend.

Borne from the emotions of breaking out of a toxic relationship and the insecurities brought on by queer shaming, the songs on HiRUDiN (named for the anticoagulant peptide released by blood-sucking leeches) bear resemblance to the distinctive character of past efforts but don’t sound nearly as caustic as you would think given their origins. In fact, this collection of electro-despair ballads often lands somewhere between Enya and Florence + the Machine.

As the album unfolds, the tracks ebb and flow with diverse musical ideas and unconventional intentions as Austra explores a varied musical landscape. But it’s Stelmanis’ operatic voice that takes center stage and provides a deepened breadth to the proceedings. Her multi-tracked voice glides among the synthesized backdrops and classical motifs like a gently glimmering ghost.

When coupled with upbeat synthesized arpeggios and rousing beats, the results are nothing short of stunning. Opener “Anywayz”—along with “I Am Not Waiting” and the superb single “Risk It”—are catchy, ornate pop songs that are both emotional and uplifting as Stelmanis’ haunting warble charms with resonant distinction.

However, there are a few hiccups on HiRUDiN. A couple of the slower numbers are good ideas that never develop into great designs. They’re often bogged down with gothic melodrama and are fine while they’re playing, but never stick you with desire to hear them on repeat.

Overall, HiRUDiN is a winning combination of the familiar and the peculiar and is worth a listen for fans of rhapsodic pop rock with seductive vocals and grooves. (

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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