Katie Stelmanis’ career is too young and I don’t know enough about her to dare comment on her “potential,” but after many listens (the sheer number is testimony to the fact that, in spite of my scruples, this song is damn infectious) I can’t help but feel like a grade school teacher, watching what could be a star student slide in at 90% without breaking a sweat.
Here’s what I do know about Stelmanis: Austra appears to be the much sleeker rebirth of the opera-trained Toronto vocalist, who put out a debut, Join Us, under her own name back in ’09. In Join Us, the voice was certainly there, but clunkier arrangements and some, er, unfortunate oddball-goth-on-a-budget music videos (witches synchronized swimming, zapping ducks …) landed the act closer to CocoRosie-esque freak folk than Austra’s current brand of club-ready goth.
Austra’s myspace makes no mention of Stelmanis’ former work.
“Beat and the Pulse” introduces a simple but well crafted (and entirely electronic) melody in minor key, prancing along “the grid” not unlike the way The Knife sometimes does. There’s an effective drop at the 40 second mark, and then a glockenspiel – I think – arrives. From there, the music plays it pretty darn safe, platforming Stelmanis’ winning voice first and foremost.
The operatics are toned down significantly here as compared to Join Us; cool is prized over naked showmanship (her talent still has more than enough room to seep through,) and well-placed echo and layering take the vocals, successfully, to hauntsville.
This song might have taken more risks, varied the dynamics more, complexified the composition. As it is, it moves down a predictable but well crafted track – not one that ever gives me the shivers, as music like this can do, but one that does get me grooving, and one that I am ready to go down again and again.
Listen to “Beat and the Pulse” on Austra’s website or above.
No SF tour dates yet, but Austra will be back in America (Los Angeles, in specific) on February 19 so keep an eye out.