Austra @ Glasslands Gallery

by Jen Hazen


Austra (Toronto-based singer/songwriter Katie Stelmanis) took the stage at Brooklyn’s tiny, Glasslands Gallery in a fairly undramatic fashion, yet conjured up some dark drama during an hour-long set that was moody, broody, and beautiful. Recently signing to Domino records, she was accompanied by several others on stage, compared to Austra’s typical line-up of Stelmanis, drummer Maya Postepski, and bassist Dorian Wolf.

 “Young and Gay” chimed with sparkling synths and pulsing drum beats as Stelmanis’ chilling, opera-trained pipes belted out rich tones that ebbed and flowed. Twin back-up singers Sari and Romy Lightman danced eerily in unison and stared at one another often, wearing matching costumes with glitter sprinkled on their faces. This is new wave-inspired noir pop for sure. It felt as tense as a taut wire about to snap.

And when the first notes of Austra’s hit “Beat and the Pulse” began to throb, literally  vibrating the gallery, the audience went ape shit. The twins swayed and twirled their arms above their heads as they sang. To say Stelmanis was immersed in the performance is an understatement. She stared down at the stage, crouched, and crooned like it was her last show. Ever.

Postepski is unbelievably talented on drums, essentially driving the drama over the top with her sparse beats combined with incessant cymbal taps that make the song shimmer. The only sad part for me? I wish that Katie would have been the only singer on stage. She could have carried it solo so easily. Her voice is that huge, that strong, that mesmerizing.

Austra’s first-full length, Feel it Break,  releases May 17th on Domino.


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