By Andrew Stirling
Bleak visions of tomorrow, being excited by what technology can offer, but terrified of the direction we’re ultimately choosing to harness that power towards. That technological malaise is the basis of Austra’s newest release, Future Politics, a synth pop heart-to-heart that couldn’t come at a better time if you’re feeling vulnerable and uncertain about the future. Coincidentally, there was a golden (allegedly) opportunity to pick the album up on the morning release of January 20th, throw it on and let Austra take you to a happier place before the presidential inauguration happened later that afternoon (especially if you needed a reason to get out of bed).
The Toronto-based band’s first release since 2013, Future Politics is Austra mastermind Katie Stelmanis’ own call to action. In her words, a call “to put together our collective visions and hopes and make a future to stand behind… Not just hope in the future, but the idea that everyone is required to help write it, and the boundaries of what it can look like are both fascinating and endless. It’s not about being political, it’s about reaching beyond boundaries, in every single field.”
Radical and energetic, Future Politics turns to offer an anthem of hope and it delivers with substantial punch. Through emotionally charged lyrics and energetic, driven synth pop, it offers an experience that guides you into dark visions of dystopia, with moody reflectiveness and melancholic undertones, before pulling back towards her vision of a shining future.
The album is full of dramatic operatic vocals and catchy rhythms reminiscent of Massive Attack and The Knife, yet unique on its own merit. Elements of darkwave, house, trip hop, opera and other genres drift in and out of eleven tracks as the mood shifts. Despite touching on a menagerie of genres, Future Politics has an orchestrated, cohesive feel to it that’s only brought in tighter by the overarching theme and message.
“Utopia” blends in elements of house and synth pop while Stelmanis’ dynamic vocal energy acts as an emotional manifesto. The structured, driven rhythm, a contrast of operatic prowess and slowly shifting, heavy and dark atmosphere in the track “Beyond a Mortal” unite to create a captivating combination. A fast paced, resonating chorus of bells in “Freepower,” create a refined, flowing and simultaneously powerful sound that builds to a dance worthy crescendo.
Future Politics has a very dance oriented sound. It fits closer to Austra’s prior release Olympia than their breakout album Feel It Break, but builds on that solid foundation with rich, atmospheric texture, a more refined sound and lyrics that move in to engage you directly.Austra, Future Politics