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Last Minute Plans: Austra At Empty Bottle

By Kim Bellware in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 28, 2011 11:00PM

After the first few synth blips and trembly vocals, Austra's music triggers a memory. Whether it reminds you of—in the words of Pitchfork's Tom Brelhan—"a mid-1980s PBS science documentary" or other artists like Fever Ray's Karin Dreijer Andersson, Austra's music has a stirring familiarity.

In this case, sounding vaguely like something you've heard before isn't a bad thing. Austra's Katie Stelmanis has warbly vocals that seamlessly mix with with her music's electronic elements, but she manages to sound urgent rather than vacant or cold. Add to to that the twinge of nostalgia Austra prompts and willowy, atmospheric songs start to sound like something you can really get close to.

Where plenty of electronic music has a chilly, driving energy, the relatable narrative in Austra's songs coaxes you to listen for everything else that's happening behind the light drums and MIDI bursts that undulate with trance-like steadiness.

On the first full-length album, Feel It Break, Austra spans a pretty small measure of notes and even fewer instruments. It's fun to hear what kinds of musical settings the Canadian singer puts together with her backing band, especially when the haunting tracks push into clear dance music territory. Since Austra can pull "pang in heart" and body-shaking music out of the same several elements, we're eager to see the band's creativity at work in real time.

Austra plays tonight, November 28, with Young Galaxy and
Tasseomancy at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western, 9:30 p.m., $12, 21+