Pretty average. It’s a way to describe things that are perfectly middle of the road, not especially displeasing, but also not anything that needs to be broadcast from the mountaintops for the world to hear. Olympia, the latest release from Canadian three piece electronic group Austra fits that bill like a weathered hand me down jacket. The album really brings nothing special to the table and if you’ve heard anything by Austra before, it’s basically more of the same. Yes, it is much more danceable and but the tones of “sit by yourself and mope to odd beeping noises” are still very much present throughout. Very few tracks on the EP stand out as anything memorable and while it is undeniably pleasant music to sit and zone out to, even after playing through the album numerous times, I had difficulty with putting track titles to tunes. 12 tracks make up this effort which although decent never breaks through to the true promise that seems to be possible for the Canadian musicians.
“We Become” is one of the more identifiable tracks on the album with a clanking percussion section that would sound just as at home opening a Four Tet song or driving a Bonobo beat while synths layer on top but instead the singer’s voice takes center stage. Harmonies and piano ballad-esque voices are the name of the game here and while it works on this particular track, there are very few others that are as strong. Lead single “Home” plays around with a relatively simple repetitive piano riff, slowly building to a hugely anti climactic climax of the most average proportions. “What We Done?”, the opening track of the album, was actually such a turn off that I had serious difficulty convincing myself to come back and listen to the remainder of the album in any seriousness. The ethereal techno sound is done better by many other bands and personally I find the classically trained vocals across this record to be a bit of an obnoxious contrast with otherwise average electronica. As a whole, not the best album and if you skip this one altogether, no one will blame you.
Austra is currently on tour behind this album and you can follow them at their website at austramusic.com.