Coloured cables hung over tables on the stage at Brisbane’s The Foundry. The tables brimmed with machines that made the venue’s walls shake with each drum machine thump. Churning out these cold, clanging beats were Melbourne four-piece NUN, who mine the distant past’s idea of the sounds of the future; sounds that came to terrifying life when they launched their second album, The Dome.
The sound of sheet metal being hit by a hammer signalled the arrival of opener S>c>r>a>p>s, aka Brisbane electronic performer Laura Hill. Her hands reached across her table of synths, twisting knobs and adding more sounds to her industrial rhythm. The pummelling beat is engulfed by dreamy keys and her soft, delayed vocals. Rather than starkly contrasting, the harsh noise and smooth keys swirled together to become pleasant dream-pop.
‘Real instruments’ appeared when local indie-pop group Blank Realm took the stage. The band’s melodies usually peek out from beneath Luke Walsh’s overdriven guitar and Sarah Spencer’s hazy synth; a combination that sounds like it’s coated in tape hiss. It’s a great sound, but this support set was the clearest they’ve ever been. The mix separated the instruments and highlighted each of them. But no matter the sound-quality, Blank Realm’s sugar-rush pop always sounds amazing.
An ominous voice spoke of something “wrapped in newspaper in the basement” when NUN came onstage. Steven Harris, Hugh Young, and Tom Hardisty each took their places behind gear, building up the clattering beat of ‘Wake In Fright’. Singer Jenny Branagan knelt in the middle and fiddled with a processor her mic was attached to. She aggressively shook her mic to the snare pattern that ended each bar. When she finally raised the mic to her mouth, her voice emerged as sinister digital sneer.
The three musicians were hunched over with their eyes fixed on their gear. While the trio barely moved, Branagan pulled erratic moves to the hissing beats. She shook like Ian Curtis and pushed her vocal processor to its limits when she ended “Uri Geller” with screams; her voice resembling a robot drowning.
Amongst the rapid synth-punk emerged “Pick Up The Phone”. The buzzing bass took on a funky rhythm, and Branagan jerked her joints to the funky machine beat, her mic slipping from her hand during one movement and sending a clunk through the speakers. It may not be the sound of the future anymore, but NUN gave their machines a pulse and new life.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
NUN‘s new album The Dome is out now. Stream or download here.
The reviewer attended the performance at Brisbane’s The Foundry on Saturday, 15th December 2018.