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Austra singles reviewed. Performing at Soup Kitchen 6th June.

Hurrah, hurray and woo hoo! The jubilee weekend is finally here and I have a rotten flu-bug type thing. Do not worry though (and I know you were beginning to worry) as I have chosen to completely ignore it and have fun regardless. It really is that easy (cue visions of me dancing and coughing and infecting the jubilant crowd with my germy badness). 

There couldn’t be more going on it town this weekend and being undecided as to what exactly to do i’ve decided the only sensible thing is to do a bit of everything. Yep, so that means Kuedo at Islington Mill tonight (sonic sci-fi wonderment), Beached Festival at Castlefield Arena tomorrow, Eurocultured on Sunday and then trotting through the many fantastic street parties going on around the northern quarter and canal street on Monday. Damn it’s going to be hard work but someone’s got to do it!

I don’t know if your weekend plans are sussed or you have chosen to ignore all the hype (because you are essentially pretty boring) and give all the treats in store a miss, but, if you can look forward, only slightly, to after the Jubilee weekend, there is another treat-fuelled event you should be sure to attend (that wasn’t supposed to rhyme, but i’ll leave it for a hocus-pocus vibe).

On Wednesday 6th June, Austra are playing Soup Kitchen. If you know Austra, you will probably already have tickets because they are fantastically glorious and that is the sensible thing to do. If you don’t, I am here to enlighten you. Check them out, treat your ears to glorious synthesized, electronic loveliness, and get yourself down to Soup Kitchen on Wednesday.

Austra are a Toronto three piece consisting of wispy haired vocalist Katie Stelmanis, bassist Dorian Wolf and drummer Maya Postepski. While Maya and Katie were previously in a Riot-Grrl band, they, along with Dorian, now produce fantastically sombre, synth, gloom, pop.

Their album ‘Feel It Break’, was released last year and is pure feminine electronic joy.

They have released a few singles off the album, the first of which was The Beat and the Pulse. Ignoring random genres, the best way to describe this song is to imagine a nu-wave warehouse party in a cathedral or Visage’s Fade to Grey played in a female only steam room.

The synth sounds used are fantastically early 80s and fall loosely, but with precision all over an electronic pulse of rounded, thin bass lines and airy, hi-hat drums. Stelmanis, who originally trained in Opera, delivers low, intense monotone verses cut through with wailing banshee-esque lines. If Kate Bush and Florence Welch were two of the three witches, Stelmanis would be the third (and I mean that is the most musically magical way).

Played loudly in a run down old picture house of a club, you could spend many an introspective hour, expressive dancing to The Beat and the Pulse. It is beautifully miserable, tortured and pure, both feminine and masculine and deliciously androgynous, a real delicious treat to the senses.

Second to be released from the album was Lose It. I find in Lose It, the same intense, dark, 80s synth sound that very much gripped me with The Beat and the Pulse. I am a total 80s synth obsessive (I know I go on about this a lot, I can’t help it, these sounds really do get me surged) and it seems to me that Austra have achieved something really brilliant with their sound. They entirely embrace the raw, early, powerful synth sound but use is wonderfully within a more modern and open production space. The result is right on the pulse, pulsating and positively streaming with energy.

Throughout Lose It Dorian Wolf’s bass bounces continuously in a low, moody and repetitive fashion. This, along with Maya Postepski’s interspersed and reliably potent disco beats really has you grinding with the off-beat. It has the overall rhythm of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, (one of my all time top-ten songs), but with a far more feminine and ethereal air. That is not to say it is light – quite the contrary. Existing within it is the perfect balance of light and dark, all viewed under the sapphire blue light of the moon.

Lose It also showcases an even more haunting quality to Katie Stelmanis’s voice. Her operatic background is apparent in the sheer control of her voice. She retains a restraint to her proclamations throughout which add a fantastic intensity to the strength of her anguished song.

Another example of Austra’s super-charged and electronically dark sound, Lose It  has a fantastic monotony that you can truly lose yourself in. They again grip you with their underworld electricity and provide a sound that allows body and music to mix as one synthesized whole. They are a forest of fibre-optic lights; a Midsummer Night’s Dream of a sound.

The rest of ‘Feel It Break’ is just as fantastic. Beautifully bleak and hypnotically uplifting.

I truly look forward to seeing them perform and Soup Kitchen is such a wonderful venue I am thinking the two will fit like neon-lit peas in a an electrically charged pod.

Now Wave, Off With Their Heads and Soup Kitchen presents Austra
Wednesday 6th June
Soup Kitchen 31-33 Spear Street, Manchester
Tickets cost £8 in advance
Doors 8pm
Buy tickets here

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