Austra + Young Galaxy + Tasseomancy // 11-24-11 // LIVE @ WECC

Austra @ WECC
Photo by Andrew Mazurak at the WECC in Winnipeg.

By Andrew Mazurak

Toronto’s Austra came to town in late November expecting colder weather than that which welcomed them. Despite our less than wintery wonderland of a city being unseasonably warm, the WECC warmed up damn quick as the sold out crowd danced their asses off for opener Young Galaxy who just came through town a few months earlier with Junior Boys:

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Tasseomancy – More than Just Music

By Jesse Blackman

Question: What do you get when you creatively combine the linguistic genius of one sister with the visual genius of another sister? Answer: a musical experience unlike any other.

Tasseomancy refers to the Lightmans’ great-great-grandmother who was a Russian Jew who lost her entire family in pogroms and fled to Canada; to help make ends meet during the Great Depression, she read tea leaves. Tasseomancy is a fancy name for that gift. Romy relates this to seven generations of mysticism in both First Nations and Jewish traditions–these ideas mirror the belief that “your actions will affect seven generations ahead” and “with every accomplishment you are looking back seven generations in order to” understand “the sacrifices” that were made. The sisters are “fans of tea and also anything else that can kind of bring people together… It’s less about stuff weighted by fate, and more so about maybe being honest with yourself in a certain situation–what would you see?”

Tasseomancy, the band, was born out of the desire of sisters Romy and Sari Lightman’s to expand the range of sound they could produce.  “There’s like always threads,” Romy explained. “It’s a continuation of where we started with Ghost Bees,” but the sisters realized that when they only “play an acoustic guitar and a mandolin there is only so much tonality – and you can only be so dynamic.  That music was really contained.”

Ghost Bees came out of the sisters’ time living out in Nova Scotia but when they moved home to the urban environment of Toronto the writing of folk songs felt “insincere.” Romy couldn’t “write songs on [her] guitar by the ocean anymore, living in downtown Toronto.” Before adding amplification, Ghost Bees could play anywhere, even on “lakes and haunted basements.” Romy feels that they cannot play in as many places anymore “because they aren’t as mobile now. Before we had a real nomadic spirit of like picking up an instrument and playing acoustic with no microphones, and like the sky’s the limit.” Continue reading “Tasseomancy – More than Just Music”

Austra – Feel It Break

It’s hard not to draw comparisons between Austra’s debut and Hercules and the Love Affair. And it’s not that they even sound alike. Austra’s not even remotely disco. But Feel It Break picks up on what were H&LA’s strongest aspects: the Antony-helmed tracks that positioned flawless, operatic vocals against strong electronic beats, too rhythmic to really be sorrowful, too emotionally resonant to be pigeonholed as just a dancefloor staple. It’s not a bad place to be, at all. Katie Stelmanis’s vocals are stunning, weaving effortlessly from aching vibrato to choir-like highs to echoed and breathy, and looped to the point where she’s often harmonizing with different manifestations of her own voice, which she’s damn good at. The synthetic beats are gentle rather than forceful, cradling Stelmanis’s voice for a seamless effect. “Lose It” is Feel It Break’s most powerful track, and features one of the loveliest, most angelic all-vowel bridges I’ve heard in a long time — and let’s be honest, those really are everywhere. It’s heartful, pleading and upbeat all at once. Synths and mixers let up at the end of the piano-driven “The Beast,” a distinctly visual number that could function as a soundtrack to a fairytale in and of itself. “Beat and the Pule” — the lyrics of which the album title is derived from — is dark and atmospheric, and more than lives up to its name. “Hate Crime” and “The Choke” are hauntingly intimate, blending sorrowful vocals with twinkling synths. If this doesn’t end up on my end of year “Best Of,” you’re welcome to slap me. (Paper Bag Records, Brietta O’Leary