Electropop and synth with some goth and classical vocals thrown in might not necessarily come across to most as the best idea, but one listen to the new album from Toronto-based band Austra will alter any opinion to the contrary. The latest single off of Feel It Break, “Lose It,” is the best indication of what lead singer Katie Stelmanis is capable of achieving with her newly hatched band.
The first thing you need to know about Stelmanis (and the thing that she wants you to know above all else, apart from the fact that she is a classically trained musician) is that she is a lesbian. This particular facet of who she is accounts for a considerable portion of Austra’s lyrical content, especially on the somewhat euphemistic opening track on Feel It Break, “Darken Her Horse”:
“Hold her by the reins/the moon isn’t far/Hold her by the reins/it’s worth it to stay/Nothing stable, nothing patient here/Ride her darken horse/The pathway to the end/She’s all alone, she’s all alone/Her trust was never there.”
The dramatic stories that unfold in each of Austra’s songs correlate well with the histrionic stylings of Stelmanis’ voice. Paired with fellow lesbian Maya Postepski’s musical programming and the stoic bass playing of Dorian Wolf, Austra produces beats and sounds that are actually innovative to the electropop genre.
But simply making amazing music is not enough for Austra (which, by the way Stelmanis chose to call the band as an homage to her heritage, as that is the name for the goddess of light in Latvian mythology), they must also create sufficiently provocative imagery to go with it–this being the case for the video in support of their other single, “Beat and the Pulse.”
The video, with its uncontrolled choreography, visceral tone, webbed body parts, and random smattering of nipple action, suffered the consequence of being whitewashed with a few blurs here or there on YouTube. Still, you get the basic gist of the video’s message, which I think is, lesbianism is cool. Austra’s proclivities for the theatrical began at the age of 10 when she joined the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus. Her talents were further fostered as she continued to study opera, learning how to play the piano and the viola along the way.
Although Stelmanis was slated to attend college in Montreal in order to continue on her path toward musical education, she opted not to go. But, to quote Paul Lester of The Guardian, “Academia’s loss was goth-tinged baroque synthpop’s gain.” For proof, listen to Behind the Hype’s favorite track off Feel It Break below.