Austra’s founder, Katie Stelmanis, was apparently all set for a career in opera before a change of heart saw her get into bands instead. Judging by this debut, we should be thankful for that generic u-turn. While Katie’s vocals owe a heavy stylistic debt to Kate Bush, Austra’s music nods towards the best slices of Bat For Lashes, The Knife, and defunct Canadian miserablists The Organ. On ‘Darken Her Horse’, soaring yet strangely dispassionate vocals are bolted to cold, bright synth melodies. It’s exciting and engaging stuff. Much of the rest of the album is similarly constructed. Two-thirds of the way in, however, the cold sterility of the production and the lack of a throbbing, organic heart all start to have a numbing effect, until the slower and more sparse ‘The Noise’ provides a less clinical release. This is conspicuously arty, yet beautifully accessible music.

By Chris Watkeys

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