The Old Blue Last, London
January 18, 2011
There’s been a noticeable shift slash longing backward glance in music trends towards all things 80’s. It seems that the product of that era now want to know everything about where they came from and the music that was made. For synth pop acts like Summer Camp and Twin Shadow, the ’80s are a nostalgia/inspirational goldmine, but with the rise of Zola Jesus, Salem, oOoOO, etc., it was inevitable that goth music and its mutated electro/dark wave offspring would get discovered by the black clad suburban misfits of today. Enter, Austra from Toronto, Canada.
A recent signing to London’s Domino Records, the band release their debut single “The Beat And The Pulse” next month, revealing a sound that is somewhat likened to Siouxsie Sioux fronting Cabaret Voltaire. Fronted by the classically trained Katie Stelmanis and playing their second-ever show in London, Austra settle into a kind of beat-driven electro-goth opera, with Stelmanis’ haunted vocals rivalling those of the afore-mentioned Zola Jesus. Austra-as-live-band are a more engaging presence than that of your average laptop-driven/synth-barricaded act, with Stelmanis flanked by two backing singers and a full rhythm section adding extra weight to the sound.
Standing in a packed room, the hipster mavens of the Old Blue Last (home to the insufferable Vice magazine) watch on with interest while a small pocket of converted fans give in to the throbbing sub-zero beat. Whether this current fascination in draining dance music of its colour lingers longer than the dying echoes of ‘chill wave’ is uncertain, but those of you who’ve done time in dank goth basements will find favour in Austra’s bleak electro-arias. The rest of you may want to reserve judgement until their debut album is released later this year. With Stelmanis’ predilection for the industrial pop perfection of Nine Inch Nails, Austra could well turn into the prettiest hate machine in town.