Nanu Nanu – Unit One


[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

After getting only morsels for the better part of two years, the Irish duo of Glitterface (Laura Sheeran) and Mirrorman (Marc Aubele) gave me a full length to peruse at long last. This was an interminable wait, a long row to hoe as they say. When they bill themselves as being something called Alien Pop, this isn’t a joke. Nanu Nanu do not sound like anything or anyone else out there, debate this all you wish but as with England and Australia: Ireland produces many unusual musical formations. For every bloated, formulaic pair or quartet who stagger out of Dublin, you’ll get bizarre groups such as this. If they are to be linked to any kind of tradition from their country, only the Virgin Prunes could possibly come to mind. And this isn’t anything to do with how they sound, both these bunches play around with musical chaos; though their results are markedly different.

Nanu Nanu’s version of pop music includes diametrically opposed elements being shoved into one another after which they’re forced to play nice and give one’s ears a thorough immersion into sparkling, yet somehow uncharted musical waters. Some of what’s on here plainly serves to show off Glitterface’s quite commanding vocal range. With minimal backing, she plays various characters to a tee. Never giving away what their motivations are nor their intentions once the song ends. Don’t allow yourself to be lulled into complacency by what these sirens are sweetly harmonizing, unless perhaps you’d like to get to know Rusalka herself under the most intimate of circumstance. It goes without saying that whatever this pair’s influences are they run quite far and wide.

I get bits and pieces of hip hop, blues, techno, soul, funk and even classical when I play this. Somehow out of all these very well-defined styles, Nanu Nanu have applied their own rules to the parameters. If this is getting your interest piqued, you need only go to their site and investigate. And no, before anyone asks, they don’t have any traditionally recognized Irish tropes or progressions in what they do. Tin whistles, banjos and two chord bass you’re not going to encounter here. There is already one band called The Pogues, we don’t really need any more now do we? I forgot to mention that they toy with that very elusive genre, trip hop also. They’d not have been out of place in the late 90s when the majors flirted with it, but even if they had been around then…

The darkness inherent in what they do would have proven too much, and it isn’t some kind of morbid fixation on skulls and graveyard shenanigans. It’s that kind of playful flippancy you find every now and then where those involved seem to be saying: yeah we’ll go when we’re ready, everyone knows it is inevitable so why not have a bit of fun exploring while we’re here. And fun they definitely are, they never let one get comfortable throughout this record’s run and I’m here to tell you, that’s a bracing shot which unfortunately doesn’t happen much anymore. I suppose it just gets too easy to be jaded by age…

Sheeran and Aubele have a unique world view, theirs is a continual process of re-invention and maniacal innovation. As one of their songs is titled, they often shed their skin over the course of ‘Unit One’. When will there be another album from them? That’s really anyone’s guess. One thing which requires no guesswork, however, is what I’ll be doing when it does emerge: having my pocket filled with Gold. Shimmering perfection.

Nanu Nanu ‎– Unit One
Flaming June Records, FLLP08
CD, Digital 2013

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