Austra | HiRUDiN | Domino Recording Co.
Release Date: 1 May, 2020
“Thinking about toxic relationships, I started reading about leeches –I learned that when they suck your blood, they release a peptide called hirudin that is the most potent anticoagulant in the world. So, although leeches themselves are considered parasitic, they also have the ability to heal. As with toxic relationships, which give you an opportunity to grow and learn more about yourself.”Katie Stelmanis | Austra
The idea of love and heartache as a driving force behind creative projects – artworks, compositions – inevitably makes sense; our deepest connections, those who have inspired us and shaped us to be the people we are – it’s difficult not to incorporate that thematic nature in our creations.
Our connections with other people are what we hold dearest to us, and when those connections snap, even if we leave them behind – we are left with the fragments of people who have changed us, in one way or another, and that feeling alone can be overwhelming; let alone if the connection had made you sick.
It also gives us an opportunity to rediscover ourselves.
Hailing from Canada, producer and songwriter Katie Stelmanis, also known under her alter-ego Austra (as well as the ‘mastermind’ behind ‘Austra’ as a band, touring with multiple rotating members in the past) approaches the subject without trying to desperately cling onto those fragments; by letting go, the artist found a whole new way to approach her sound, allowing herself to break free and allow for healing in a whole new zone, that wasn’t particularly comfortable.
Returning with her fourth album ‘HiRUDin’, Stelmanis’ vocal prowess shines as one of her most exquisitely definitive features, the pure, raw approach to her work is immediately striking – and after breaking free from her previous comfort zone, the evolution of Austra as an electro-pop artist shimmers radiantly in HiRUDin.
The opening track of the album ‘Anywayz‘ is perhaps the most perfect introduction to ‘HiRUDin‘ and sets the tone for the rest of album immediately; Stelmanis’ vocal skill is one of the artist’s most striking features in her work, with her marvellous vocal range able to convey an ethereal array of emotion. With the first few seconds of the introduction focused solely on the ethereal nature of her vocals and the honeyed melancholia of her intimate, introspective lyrics – the slow, wistful keys act as a gentle companionship to the gradual, distant freckles of synths, segueing into stuttering cyber-staccato recurrence.
You make me so angry
I love you, I love you
We keep up without you
So lonely, so lonely
For weeks ’til I see you
Come back, I want to feel you
The distance between us
Come back, I want to hear you say
We’ll figure it out
As the textural electronics surface from their echoic distance, the atmosphere blossoms into a dreamy, vibrant energy; Stelmanis’ vocals singing angelic amongst the upbeat, and incredibly charming percussive dance – electro-pop bliss glimmers in the joyful, kaleidoscopic swirl. The rhythmic enchantment of the track allows for interludes of delicate moments as Stelmanis reflects. Her intimate accompaniment by her halcyon keys are a delightful contrast to the lively oscillating synth melodies – a pull to the animation of a lovingly bittersweet dancefloor – to the subject matter itself; an unstable relationship possibly coming to an end.
The casual title of ‘Anywayz‘ when focused on the idea of heartache is electrifyingly optimistic in a way – yet still an exceptionally open, vulnerable and intimate approach to the subject is gracefully balanced throughout the entirety of ‘HiRUDin’.
But what if we don’t
And the world keeps turning anyways?
The flowers come up anyways
The mountains rise up anyways
Rating: 8 /10
Feature Image: Austra by Virginie Khateeb