Say Psych: Album Review: NONN – XVII

Back in May last year Sweden’s Christian Eldefors released his debut album as NONN, a stark collection of minimalistic post-punk that marked him as one of the most exciting outputs in the dark Scandinavian scene. After touring the record across Europe and recruiting a full band, the project is back with its second album, XVII, which was released on Fuzz Club Records earlier this month.

Now more of a collaborative effort, with Hannes Nyling and Christian’s brother Alexander joining the fold, the new record deals a fuller sound with a heavier punch rate. Where the self-titled debut was a restrained, minimalist affair, XVII opts for slabs of industrial electronics and hard-hitting percussion. This shift in the band’s sound all boils down to having to reinvent the songs when taking them on the road following the release of their debut, which saw them tour the UK and mainland Europe and play at a number of festivals; from Liverpool Psych Fest and Fuzz Club Eindhoven to, more recently, Endless Daze in South Africa. “Since the last record we’ve been doing a lot of shows which gave us a lot of inspiration. We reworked the old songs to sound a bit fuller and more fun to play live. Having to reinvent all the sounds and instruments from the first album really inspired the direction on XVII,” Christian remarks.

Opener ‘Pray’ marks the intent of the album early on, with brooding electronics overlaid by delayed vocals which are executed in a chant like fashion. The use of phasing within the sound creates an intoxicating industrial noise that traverses genres and there isn’t a guitar in sight. This is followed by ‘Clear’ which is an instantly upbeat track, with an infectious rhythm that permeates and an ear worm of a melody that lingers long after the tracks demise. This is the type of track that when heard at a festival is the one you leave humming. ‘Home’ continues in this vein with its tapped drum beat driving the track with echoed vocals creating an ethereal presence behind the guitar interplay. There is an interesting change toward the end of the track which invokes all the right element of 80s post punk that people know and love. ‘Believe’ on the other hand offers sparse, industrial tinged electronica with repetitive lyrics and an infectious guitar hook.

‘When’ is fast paced from the off and is probably the catchiest track on the album, although it’s becoming difficult to pick a track that doesn’t get stuck in your head. There is a lot going on in this track and it takes a couple of listens to pick up on the subtleties but once you hear them, the beauty is hard to ignore. ‘Hide’ could be construed as a form of synth orientated punk and showcases NONN at their finest, fully embracing their love of their Moog Sub Phatty. ‘Reach’ is the track most like their debut LP sound and bridges the gap between the two offerings, it’s the kind of track that you’d see in film soundtracks for dark, slightly sinister underground nightclub scenes. ‘Beyond’ sees NONN shift their sound into something far richer that plays with genre like a cat would a mouse before the concluding instrumental ‘Past’ ties everything together neatly, taking elements of all that came before.

NONN’s sound won’t be for everyone, but as albums go that are enjoyable to listen to from start to finish, there haven’t been many better in 2018 than this. The effortless way they play with genre and mix sounds means there is a bit of something everyone can enjoy.

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