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Austra – “Feel It Break” Review

austra“Feel It Break” is the opening album from trio Austra – a smooth minor key laden electronic group from America. You can hear things being borrowed from other places but it still sounds quite unique on its own front.

Opener “Darken Her House” is a stomp beat track that slowly builds from its gritty bass lines into a sultry melodic shimmering number. Lead singer Katie has a strange vocal delivery. It reminds me, if I’m being lazy, of Florence and the Machine, but there’s a lot more vibrato to it. “Lose It” showcases a more poppier tone with upbeat melodies despite the minor keys and some good twisting of vocals to provide catchy hooks. Katie when in full steam can really belt out a chorus though as things turn towards a Venus Hum tone. “The Future” is a strange fusion of cute childlike melodies wrapped around a more sophisticated overarching theme. “Beat and the Pulse” however goes straight for the jugular with a catchy motif, hard bass and pounding beat. It’s like the first couple of tracks try to purposely avoid this so we can finally feel unleashed here.

“Spellwork” is possibly my favourite track on the album. It’s got a witchy kookiness to it and it feels like a fully formed song, coupled with the equally fraught and catchy “The Choke” it feels like the album now really has hit its stride. The vocals are strong, the arrangements are full and evolving. The second half of The Choke is mesmerising. “Hate Crime” too is up on the better half of the album with some good use of cymbals to mix up the percussive edge of the song.

“The Villain” moves things into a more Fever Ray territory and this is where Katie’s vocals shine. They have a raw quality to them and suit a slightly detuned composition better than a straight up pop track. Austra work better when a song breaks. “Shoot The Water” has the excellent lyric “silence speaks for you” whilst the piano motif sounds like something from a Victoria Wood track with its clumsy comedy turn. “The Noise” is a fantastic track for its simplistic hook and call/response of the main chorus. and unusual chord choice. There’s no percussion either but you wouldn’t even notice. The closing track “The Beast” is a complete departure from everything else, a piano/vocal track with minimal input from anything else. It slowly evolves into a really spacious orgasmic finale. Strangely arousing and uplifting.

Austra’s “Feel It Break” is a strange beast. It doesn’t quite hook me in, yet with each listen I’m appreciating it a little more. It’s like the album gets better as you go through it too as the songs I’ve yet to really click with all seem to be at the front end of the album. I think the best way to describe it is if you fancy Florence and the Machines to have a baby with Zola Jesus and go down electro-pop – this is for you.

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