Feel it Break 4/5 When Katie Stelmanis was 10 years old, she became obsessed with opera. She joined the Canadian Children’s Opera, studied her craft for four years and dreamed of writing arias. Then rock ’n’ roll stole this Toronto girl’s heart. For a time she found it difficult to shake her vocal training, but she persevered and formed post-riot-grrrl group Galaxy, before doing a stylistic U-turn and releasing her debut album, Join Us, in 2008.
Where ‘Join Us’ was all about supple vocals and undulating piano lines, Stelmanis’s first record as Austra (her middle name) expands the sonic palette, openly taking cues from The Knife, right down to her clipped pronunciation. But this is no pale facsimile: ‘Beat and the Pulse’ sucks the listener into a velvety womb of comforting melancholy and low-end synth throbs, while ‘The Villain’ is sleek, sharp-as-icicles electronic pop. On ‘Shoot the Water’, Stelamanis’s staccato cadences decorate the buoyant piano arrangement like a nimble ballerina en pointe, and ‘Hate Crime’, ‘The Future’ and ‘Lose It’ each twinkle with an abundance of hooks. It all sounds like Bat For Lashes having a torrid tryst with Trent Reznor: it’s so good, that like Slipknot’s The Clown, we are now officially fans.