Published Oct 22, 2014The ground floor of the new Reflections Cabaret, relocated from its old location on Sackville Street, is a surprisingly bright space — far too bright, really, for an atmospheric synth-pop show. But if the cool blue lights didn't reach far enough last night, and the smoke machine smoke dissipated a bit too quickly, Austra did their best to appropriately darken the mood.
The band's best material tends to be tightly wound, unspooling its beats and pulses with careful precision. Performing as a four-piece, Austra relied on a mix of synthetic and live drum sounds — the former at times a bit overbearing and cold on some of Olympia's highlights, the latter occasionally lacking power. (Opener "Darken Her Horse" felt strangely flat in that regard.) Holding the varied sounds together were Katie Stelmanis' vocals, as impressive as ever, darting and diving through the mix with poise and power.
What elevated the show was its conclusion, which took a welcome turn. Most of the show found Austra largely attempting the reconstruct the sound of their recordings, but "Lose It" was a curveball: the band held back its four-on-the-floor beat until much, much later in the song, allowing it to grow and build, piece by piece. You could feel the energy in the room rise as the song did. The band then broke that energy wide open with a massive, room-shaking version of "The Beat and the Pulse," giving HPX 2014 its first proper dance party to close out the night.