In Latvian mythology, Austra is the goddess of light. The namesake band from Canada visited One-Eyed Jack's Sunday night with a show that relied as much on visual aesthetics as it did its gothy disco electronic sound. Lead singer, Katie Stelmanis, formerly of Galaxy, formed Austra with drummer Maya Postepski and bassist Dorian Wolf. They releasedFeel It Breakto critical acclaim in 2011 and doubled in band size for the recent album,Olympia,although only keyboardist Ryan Wonsiak was on stage with the original three. Austra is a dancier Zola Jesus and a faster-paced HTRK, and their songs oscillated between romantic electro-ballads like "Painful Like" and bass-driven dance numbers like "The Beat and The Pulse," their first hit single. Large white tiki-cocktail umbrellas fit with color-changing lights adorned the stage and coruscated like electric jellyfish as Stelmanis floated through red and yellow smoke from her keyboard to the stage's edge. With classical vocal training, she sounded like an operatic female David Gahan, and her simple romantic lyrics underlined songs that were more orchestral in arrangement than typical EDM. During "Painful Like," Stelmanis sings "In the light I'm falling/held in the eye of night/malice keeps calling" while colors flash and change around her. Despite the lights, much of the stage remained dark, and the contrast of this visual effect seemed to reflect the complexities of her moods in song. The crowd reacted diversely: several people met the energy of the heavy steady bass, others swayed to the vocals, and many people simply stood and stared at the opalescence and dramatic gesturing of Stelmanis as she moved in and out of light and shadow.
Diana, another electronic band from Toronto, was an appropriate opener for Austra. Led by vocalist (and David Byrne-like dancer) Carmen Elie, formerly of Spiral Beach, the four-piece band provided a similar sound influenced heavily by 80's electronic music like Tears for Fears but without the pop hooks. Their songs also sounded more like arrangements than jams, and their electronic live sound was boosted by acoustic breaks from synthesizers to energetic drum play from Kieran Adams and Joseph Shabason's saxophone. They played songs from their debut album "Perpetual Surrender" and covered Roxy Music's "You Know It Hurts Me." On occasion, they finished their arrangements with some instrumental free-styling that got the crowd moving, proving they are capable as musicians beyond their synth-heavy sound in the studio.
You can see video from these bands at the show below: