One of Domino’s more intriguing signings of late, Toronto’s Austra beguiled many attendees (State included) at SXSW this year with their dark electro style. Now that debut album Feel It Break has been out a few months, State went back in to see how the live show has progressed.
It’s good news all-round. In a packed Crawdaddy, the five-piece led by Katie Stelmanis delivered more of their distinct danceable electro. Key to the band’s appeal is Stelmanis’ shivering and far-reaching classically-trained voice. Comparisons to a certain Karin Dreijer Andersson are obvious but Austra’s music as a whole is more concerned with the enchanting beat-driven end of electronica than the atmospheric brooding one favoured by Fever Ray or The Knife.
That’s not to say there’s not plenty of atmosphere on stage. Stelmanis is now a much more confident performer, one who doesn’t need her vision to be obscured by hair in her eyes any longer. There’s a witch-like quality to her stage presence; she has a habit of gesturing to the crowd while singing, as if she’s casting spells. Flanked by gyrating backing singers (who make up the folk duo Tasseomancy), who provide extra energy, the front line is a strong one. The band also consists of drummer Maya Postepski, bassist Dorian Wolf and a tall androgynous-looking guy on keyboards.
The live show is a enjoyable one. The material is strong, particularly the three singles: ‘Beat & The Pulse’, ‘Lose It’ and ‘The Future’. There’s certainly a gothic new wave feel that gives the lighter tracks an edge. If one was to be harsh, you could say there’s a single-minded nature to the songs that produces a lack of variation but we’ll worry about that when album number two comes. One certainty is that Austra’s disco-tinged darkness deserves to be filling much bigger rooms next time around.
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