Austra at KOKO
Austra, 6-part electronic pop band from Toronto, played a sold out show last night at Koko in Camden. The performance was part of a world tour that will next take them to Hong Kong and Australia. Formed in 2009, Austra released their debut album Feel It Break in 2011, then shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. Their second album Olympia was released in June this year.
Everything about Austra’s performance, from the opening notes of What We Done? to the final bars of the encore, is thoughtful and precise. The staging immediately looks professional and effective, at times conjuring the bioluminescence of a deep sea world. Parasols mounted around the stage glow from lights within, smoothly gliding through purples, blues and greens, while darting LED lights line the steps at the back of the stage. The effect is beautiful, framing classically-trained lead singer Katie Stelmanis in her floaty petticoat dress as she delivers her eccentric performance, crouching low and swinging the lengths of her dress through the lighting like a radiant sea creature.
It doesn’t take long to realise that Austra have a definitive sound; chiming synths dreamily reverberate over a powerful metronomic drum kick that underpins Stelmanis’ dramatic and skillful vocal performance, often punctuated with crashing cymbals. The lyrics are difficult to make out however, and the songs in the middle of the set blend into one another with little distinction in sound or style. Yet the audience is besotted, and tumultuous applause rises up after each offering, even peppered with screams of “I love you.” If Austra’s songs do seem a little formulaic, it is clearly a winning arrangement and judging by the sell out show and audience’s reaction, they have found themselves a solid fan base.
At the mid-point of the set, Home stands alone in breaking the mould with galloping percussion, bouncy keyboard line and a flute solo. The vocals remain characteristically morose, but the change in arrangement provides an interesting variation on the usual melancholia. This track stands out, along with crowd favourites Lose It and Forgive Me, as one of the highlights of Austra’s performance.
Photos: Tania Olive
For more information and future events visit Austra’s website here.
Watch the video for Forgive Me here: