DIANA opens for Austra on Friday.
Next to the Spartan black, white and mustard-yellow abstraction adorning 2011’s Feel it Break, the cover of Austra’s new-ish Olympia (Domino) is a startling thing to behold: a shot of bandleader/vocalist Katie Stelmanis, casually slumped in a pale pink pantsuit, her fire-orange hair popping almost palpably against the gaudy green and turquoise of a bucolic painted backdrop. The Toronto outfit affect a similarly bold and vibrant shift here musically. Without abandoning their basic operating template — crisp, statuesque electronics undergirding Stelmanis’ otherworldly, demi-operatic siren wails — they’ve expanded upon their alluringly witchy but rather bloodless debut with an astonishingly human set of lush, colorful, classicist house-derived pop that suggests Hercules and Love Affair as fronted by Fever Ray. Actually, scratch that. Even if Olympia isn’t afraid of brazenly courting yet more dull-edged comparisons to mid-period Knife (consider the creaky gender trouble of “I Don’t Care (I’m A Man),” or the island rhythms and synthetic timbales of “We Become”), it comes as an affirmation that Austra are their own singular entity, one that sounds increasingly comfortable in their own skin even as they venture beyond their icily reserved comfort zone.
Fri., Sept. 20, 7:30 p.m., $15, with DIANA, Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., 215-232-2100, utphilly.com.
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