Katie Stelmanis doesn't like to play the day parties at South by Southwest. Her band is all about the pitch-black mood of a dance club. "We like to dim the lights and create a dark, dark space," said Stelmanis. "And in the middle of the day, you feel very exposed." Her Toronto-based act is called Austra, from Stelmanis' middle name a name for girls "as common as Sarah" in Latvia, and also the name of the goddess of light in Latvian mythology. The brightest light in Austra's pulsating, dark electro repertoire is Stelmanis' vocals. Rising above a bass beat that vibrated so intensely it affected my video camera's focus, her operatically trained voice and harmonies from two backup singers added a rich beauty to the gothic throb and thoughtful lyrics.
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