Friday, October 21, 2022

Austel Provides The Ideal Winter Soundtrack On Latest Release

Winter is fast approaching and the discontent in the country is already palpable. Some will bury their heads in the sand, pretend to be anywhere else, and hope it all blows over. Others may well simply laugh at the mess and crack on as we head into the depths of what is most likely to be the darkest Christmas period of our lives, quite possibly literally. 

Annie Rew Shaw, artistically known as Austel, may well provide the perfect antidote to your woes if you're in the former camp, or a soundtrack to the disaster if you find yourself in the latter. 

With her 2022 reimagination on her album ‘Feathers’, the Devon-born Austel was able to rework her previous releases into a more spacious format, where ethereal synths and stark piano lines were interlaced between Shaw’s soft vocals. It was a sound she had experimented with on earlier EP ‘Cold Love’ but is now a vibe she has fully committed to and continues with on her marvellous new two-track release. 

‘Cut me Down’ is an elegant masterpiece as distant synths and subtle piano bars provide space for Shaw's vocals to soar. The song cracks into life as heavy bass and drums drive the ballad forward. “Oh, and I know we can’t be alone / I can’t hear your voice anymore” sings Austel, in a gentle wisp that only adds to the hurt on a track that seems to perfectly encapsulate the frustrations of forbidden or toxic relationships. 

Follow-up ‘NYC’ heavily leans into the self-declared inspirations behind Austel, as the reverbed and tracked vocals closely follow the template set by the Cocteau Twins some three decades earlier, although it must be said Shaw’s pained lyrics are far more easily decipherable. Musically, the track almost entirely relies on a synth that slides between church organ and spaceship, which increases the weight of the artist's voice that is joined by almost constant yet beautiful backing vocals. 

Both musically and lyrically, the release feels weighted by the space Shaw allows on the tracks. It adds to the despair and pain in her voice that she translates brilliantly through her subtle delivery and heart-wrenching lines. The new iteration of Austel, which has seen her veer away from the Maggie Rogers-inspired folktronica of her early releases and delve into the ethereal wave, dream pop aesthetic, has only made her music more exciting. A change in direction can often be met by scorn and bemusement alike, but on her newest releases, Shaw has nailed her sound and may well be the ideal medicine for the winter to come. 


James Ogden 

Image: ‘Cut Me Down’ Official Single Cover 



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