Release Date: Jun 17, 2014
Record label: !K7
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Habitat EP can be defined as a little labour of love. The four-track release was developed after its title-track could not find space in either of the Austra's two albums. It was conceptually too distant, but at the same time gained cult status amongst the gig-going fans who demanded a studio version of the track.
Many Austra fans will be familiar with the Habitat EP’s title track, which has been knocking around in live form for several years. Despite the song being a staple of Austra’s shows it has never previously been released as the band didn’t feel it fit with either of their albums. Whilst Austra have always specialised in ominous electro beats, of which ‘Habitat’ has plenty, it’s easy to see why it stands apart from Feel It Break or the powerful theatricality of last year’s Olympia.
In July 1518, the French city of Strasbourg was blighted by the Dancing Plague: a limb-jerking mania where some unexplained compulsion compelled hundreds of people to cut shapes without rest or respite for days on end until many died of exhaustion. Austra’s music has always felt like it comes from the same place, too – a dark dancefloor mania of hot-blooded movement and dark sentiment – and new EP ‘Habitat’ is no different, from the dance macabre gloom of the title track, with its brooding synths and Katie Stelmanis’ crooning, “I want you, I need you” as if gripped by religious fever, to the strange, itchy glitches of ‘Dopefer’ and the twisted beats and creepy whispers of ‘Hulluu’. Dance, dance, dance until the end is nigh.
Austra's Olympia was a great sophomore record, one that took the chilly atmosphere of their debut and warmed it up until it turned neon. Last year we described it as the band's "most exciting and fully formed piece of work yet." Habitat finds them continuing in much the same direction, even though the title track is in fact much older than those sessions. Austra explained that "Habitat" was a bit of an outlier, as it found a home into the band's live sets but never onto a record until now.It's a very dark and moody song, but imbued with the dynamic production and melodicism that made Olympia such a stand out.
Austra's new EP is the sound of an act that's defined by its singer being left to its own devices. The single "Habitat" is up there with the Canadian electronic trio's catchiest tunes to date, as Katie Stelmanis' voice takes on a more soulful tone than usual on a cascade of sticky hooks. The rest of the EP is mostly instrumental, freeing the band from pop limitations.
When a confluence of creative resources are readily available, the benefits of having a wealth of inspiration are glaringly obvious. That abundance of stimulation can allow for a prolific and varied body of work. However, that expansive pool could also lead to a loss of focus, even a frenzied and chaotic path. For Toronto-based electronica group Austra, that challenge appears to beset their latest EP, Habitat.