From the opening note of Feel It Break the immediate comparison can be drawn to The Knife; the keyboard tone that’s hit is so familiar to those that have listened to Silent Shout multiple times over the last few years. Accurate comparisons to The Knife don’t come often, but in this case the similarities are certainly there. However, this is far from The Knife Jr.
For starters we have Katy Stelmanis; a trained opera singer – no artificial pitch-shifting needed here. This may not sound like the ideal partnership for what is, at its core, a dance record, but the pairing works well in a unique way. At the base of the majority of these songs are pure pop melodies, twinkling synths and disco drums. Stelmanis’ voice carries them away from forgettable fodder, with breezy tones turning to histrionic cries from one line to the next. Best of all are the moments when Stelmanis’ voice is double-tracked, either into heavenly harmonies or to interplay with each other. There is a definite commanding power that is carried through the vocals on this album.
For the most part, the lyrics on the album don’t really matter since your focus is drawn to the interplay of Stelmanis’ singing chops and the beats. But, if you should choose to listen you’ll hear a dark theme on some songs, which plays into the cold sound of the album, and a sexual one on others, which is a bit jarring. Feel It Break is best at its darkest points, when there is more depth to the sound, created by additional layers on the low end. This also adds a drive to the songs that once again may draw comparisons to that infamous Swedish duo. “Beat and the Pulse,” “Spellwork,” and “The Villain” are the prime examples of this. On the other end of the scale is a song like “Shoot The Water,” which eschews the dense electronic sounds for a simple, comparatively bright piano line, but in an unexciting and kitsch way, making it feel out of place.
In our interview with her recently, Stelmanis admitted that she left opera because she was uncomfortable with its demands and wanted to party. Undoubtedly she has found an output for her more outgoing side on Feel It Break, but sometimes some of her past correctness still appears – the chorus of “who signed the consent form?” in “Hate Crime” must be the most bureaucratic ever, and the fully-blown ceremonial performance given on closer “The Beast” is a little too theatrical for a pop record.
Feel It Break is refreshing in that it takes the ideas of the occult, which many other bands have been doing in the current mini-resurgence of goth, but puts them into a more accessible mould. This may not always work, but Feel It Break is a debut album, and an understatedly adventurous one, which earns it some leniency. It’s unlikely that the album will be a big hit, but the best songs will grow to have a life outside of Feel It Break, on dancefloors and party playlists, which I’m sure is something Stelmanis would approve of.