The gloomy 80s sensibilities are still there – see the occasional Cure-esque guitars and morose gothic vocals - but on XVII, NONN turn their eyes more towards the electronic affliction of EBM and synth-punk than the polished, more-digestible post-punk that came reverberating out of the decade. 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. It’s clear that taking the project on the road with a full-band has had a notable effect. Tracks like ‘Clear’, ‘Home’ and ‘Beyond’ see NONN shift their bleak, darkwave-inflected post-punk into something far richer.
It’s still got that minimalistic feel and the ear-worm melodies are still there, but it’s more sinister and fleshed out. Though, what truly sets this album apart from the debut is where the band have delved deeper into their electronic side. The industrial stomp of album-opener ‘Pray’ declares the LP’s merciless intent without a guitar in sight; it’s a destructive cut of throbbing synths and desolate drum machine, underpinned by Christian’s monotonous vocals. Partner that with the sparse, haunting electronics of ‘Believe’ and the mechanical synth-punk of ‘Hide’ and it’s clear that NONN are at their best when truly embracing their deeply-cherished Moog Sub Phatty, using it to exorcise the many demons lurking beneath the noise.