Thursday 27 June 2013

Austra - Olympia

‘Olympia’ is the second album from Austra, following the group’s debut ‘Feel It Break’ in 2011.  It’s also the album that should see them breaking out of relative obscurity and into the mainstream alongside the likes of fellow Canadians Grimes and Blood Diamonds.

Austra are fronted by classically trained and unique vocalist Katie Stelmanis, creating dark, alternative synth-pop.  On ‘Olympia’, their sound has been expanded into bass-heavy disco offerings – the hooky, soaring Painful Like; the hypnotic thrum of Sleep; the funky syncopations and handclaps of Annie (Oh muse, you).  The production layers synths with a glossy sheen, but isn’t afraid to throw in some curveballs such as the flute solo on current single Home, or the mournful cello opening of Fire followed by mesmeric marimba patterns and a huge bass drop.  Strings, harps and brass abound, this is on a much grander scale than ‘Feel It Break’.

Most of all, ‘Olympia’ is drenched in sadness, despite its disco aesthetic, owing predominantly to the haunting vocals.  “What do I have to do to make you forgive me?”, Stelmanis calls out on Forgive Me, before the track plunges into a whirl of sub bass and sorrowful strings.  Penultimate track You Changed My Life begins simply with an oscillating piano riff and Stelmanis’ fragile vocal, before its disco beats slowly creep up on you in the dark.  ‘Olympia’ might not be the catchiest pop album of the year and its meanderings do become predictable, but Austra manage that magical combination of melancholic disco to rival the likes of Robyn.


Gizzle’s Choice:
* Painful Like
* Sleep
* Annie (Oh muse, you)

Listen: ‘Olympia’ is available now.

Watch: Austra are touring both the states and Europe over the course of the year.