Ahead of the Toronto outfit's upcoming LP, Katie Stelmanis shares an hour of Mexican rancheras, European club beats, and Canadian indigenous music.
Artwork by Harry Gassel and Eric Hu
It's been three years since we've heard new music from Austra, the highly beloved Toronto synth-pop project of Katie Stelmanis. Now the group—which also includes Maya Postepski (Princess Century), Dorian Wolf, and Ryan Wonsiak—are gearing up to release their third studio album, entitled Future Politics.
We've already heard the driving, dystopian first single "Utopia," and the rest of the record is built for both dancefloors and headphones, with galvanizing, minimalist beats and contemplative, piercing lyrics. Inspired by the vocalist and producer's time spent living in Mexico City and Montreal, the eleven tracks address world turmoil with hopefulness and positivity, while sonically being influenced by European club culture.
Fittingly, Stelmanis' hour-long THUMP Mix includes tracks by Norwegian avant-gardist Jenny Hval, German acid and electro mainstay Helena Hauff, London-based techno producer Karen Gwyer, alongside 2016 material by Canadian compatriots A Tribe Called Red (with Tanya Tagaq), Nautiluss, and Tasseomancy.
Stream the mix below, download it via WeTransfer, and read a short email interview with the her about the making of Future Politics, and why it's important now more than ever to be politically engaged.
THUMP: Where did you record this mix?
Katie Stelmanis: I recorded this mix at my temporary home in Brooklyn, NY.
How are we went to enjoy this mix? What's the perfect setting?
This is somewhere between a dinner party mix and a 4 AM mix. It's mostly pretty chill, a lot of ambiance, but with moments of intensity too.
Is synesthesia a real thing and if so, what color is this mix?
I think synesthesia definitely exists, and I believe this mix is a direct mix between blue and red, resulting in an overall purple.
You've said that Future Politics calls for a "a commitment to replace the approaching dystopia," can you elaborate on how this became a mission statement of sorts for the album.
When I started out making this record, I was feeling a deep sadness about the world, the destruction of the planet, and our idiotic politicians. It started out as a very dark record, but eventually I was able to find optimism through reading about peoples' ideas of the future. And I think when times are especially bleak, it's more important than ever to keep imagining a new future that can always become real, and stay focused on that goal while weeding through the obstacles.
You open with a track by Chavela Vargas, how did you discover her music?
I discovered Chavela Vargas while living in Mexico. I'm quite sure she's actually Costa Rican but definitely found her success in Mexico. I love her because she is a woman singing in the ranchera style, which is traditionally sung by men, and she is a lesbian who on her deathbed confessed to never having ever slept with a man, and saying "what could be more pure than that..."
There's two songs on here by Canadian indigenous acts, A Tribe Called Red and Buffy Sainte-Marie, and I know you've spoken out on what's happening in Standing Rock right now. Why do you think it's important for artists to help spread the message when it comes to these issues?
If artists aren't spreading the messages, who will? We can't depend on the news, and I've recently learned we can't depend on social media bubbles for information. I think artists offer a unique perspective on political issues, because they are able to talk about them emotionally through their work, and thus people are more open to listening.
What's your advice for keeping mentally positive in light of recent political events like Trump becoming the president-elect, etc.?
I think it's important to focus on your friends, your community, stay engaged politically as much as you can. Most importantly, never stop imagining the potential of what our world could look like, because our imaginations and ideas for a better future are what will scare people like Donald the most.
Chavela Vargas - Adoro
Helena Hauff - Dreams in Colour
B12 - Untold
King Koya - Villa Donde
Jenny Hval - Untamed Region
Nautiluss - Odyssey
Nicola Cruz - Sendero
Dorothy Ashby - Moonlight in Vermont
Toxe - Determina
Peter Van Hoesen - Nefertiti / Always Beyond
A Tribe Called Red - Sila (feat. Tanya Tagaq)
Buffy Sainte-Marie - Universal Soldier
Tahres One - Entre Receurdos
Karen Gwyer - And Again Those Eyes
Tasseomancy - Gentle Man
Austra's Party Politics comes out Jan. 20 via Domino/Pink Fizz Records, pre-order here.
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