Using the word ‘politics’ in your album title is a bold move, but Katie Stelmanis, AKA the woman behind Canadian electronic project Austra, doesn’t eschew its connotations or hide her goal of prompting listeners to think about what it means.
“It was definitely intentional,” she says. “What I’m saying when I say ‘future politics’ is imagining the world and organising society in a long-form way.” The songwriter and producer sees the corporeal community of music as a radical thing, which can tie people together in meaningful ways. “I think the dance floor is this kind of sensory overload where people become more emotionally open and aware,” she explains. “One of the first inspirations I had for the record was the band Massive Attack. I saw them by accident; we played a festival with them and their shows are pretty overtly political. They have all these newspaper headlines in the background throughout the whole thing. There’s just something about receiving that information while listening to beautiful music that it makes it easier to want to relate, or want to understand.”
If there was a word that could crystallise the feeling of Future Politics’ tracks it would be ‘hope’, and it comes out in different ways. Stand-out Beyond A Mortal has very Kid A-like opening – childlike and electronic like a baby robot, with short high key notes rippling and pulsing across the air. To create it, Stelmanis sifted through a pile of very legit material. “I got a bunch of free samples from NASA,” she explains. “That intro was recorded in space! I think it’s noise from Mars, and rockets taking off… I’m always looking for really good white noise samples.”
Utopia contains some incredibly delicate harmonies, which the musician created “on the fly” – she’s not as disciplined as their intricacy might suggest. “I never warm up, ever,” she says a little bashfully. “I [see] other artists do it, and I have a lot of respect for them. I kind of warm up on stage. For example, I could never sing Lose It in the first three songs. I try and make it so the first few songs are easier to get into, and by he end of the set I can kind of do anything.”
Future Politics is out January 20 via Domino.