Live Review: Austra

12 Jul

Haunt: Friday, July 8 2011

So this is how it seems to go.

Reviewers faced with the latest female-fronted, synth-drenched, goth-tinged act should throw in comparisons to Florence and the Machine, Zola Jesus and School of Seven Bells, maybe make reference to Kate Bush-esque vocal histrionics, before concluding the band in question aren’t a patch on Bat For Lashes.

There’s only one problem; with the exception of Kate – whose gigs are rarer than Shane MacGowan’s teeth – in terms of a live spectacle, Toronto trio Austra leave the aforementioned acts trailing in their wake. They are immense.

Tonight, the crowd rammed into Haunt is treated to a sublime set of dark and theatrical electro-doom-pop. There’s shimmering keys, cold beats and sleazy bass but, as impressive as its combined impact is, it merely provides the glittering bedrock for the star attraction, classically-trained frontwoman Katie Stelmanis.

In a flowing back garb she orchestrates proceedings, almost appearing to be conducting herself as her soaring vocals take hold.

There’s little pause for thought as the majority of tracks from debut album Feel it Break are dispatched with an eerie but classy style. It’s a strange yet winning mix of vocal gymnastics, at times macabre lyrics and downright danceable tunes.

There’s a cleverness about it all too. On the several occasions where, in lesser hands, the sharp operatics would be left unabated to overwhelm, here they are expertly tempered by some welcome and soothing backing vocals and harmonies.

As the breathless Lose It fades out amid a flickering light finale, it’s hard not to conclude that Austra have the lot; the sound, the style and the buzz.

Beat that Florence et al.

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