Hunz, Toy Balloon, Dot.AY @ Troubadour, Brisbane (28/05/09)

It’s not often that you go to a gig where there are more Korgs and laptops than guitars. Tonight’s lineup is a fine example of the growing electronic and experimental music scene in Brisbane. There are only a handful of people who have come early to catch the first act, Dot.AY, which is a real shame because he is easily the most exciting and creative act I’ve seen in a long while. I know words like –  “exciting’ and –  “creative’ get bandied around all the time, but really, this guy’s geek factor is through the roof!

Dot.AY makes music out of Game Boys. His laptop provides a background of gaming noises, to which he adds sweet chirps and bleeps via two Game Boys. The sound is very electronic, bordering on industrial at times, with some rap moments. There’s really something special about watching someone rock out with Game Boys – and if that isn’t enough, Dot.AY also whips out a Guitar Hero guitar, followed by a Dance Dance Revolution mat (you know, the one with the arrows that you step on?) for a little bit of crowd participation.

Toy Balloon create a sound that is something like a lounge music disco. Chloe Cooper and Ben Cooper supply minimal and measured vocals with plenty of effects, with Chloe also doubling up on keys. Nimai Etheridge is the sole guitarist for the night – when he breaks a string midway through the set, the crowd chuckles quietly because there are no spare guitars anywhere. He does well enough with five strings anyway. Etheridge also dabbles on the saxophone, resulting in songs that are something of a mix between Kenny G and dirty electro – in a good way! The music is very catchy at times, but I feel let down by the band’s performance which is lacking in the energy that I would expect from an electronic group. Standout track by far is Kids NY, which gets some of the crowd moving.

Hunz are, quite simply, amazing. Not only did this band create a sublime album in the space of a month, but they also have the live show to back it up. From the moment Hans van Vliet sings his first note, the audience are completely enchanted. Tonight the band launches their new album, Thoughts That Move, which rivals Gotye’s Like Drawing Blood in my books. (A big claim, I know. You can download it for free from the band’s website and decide for yourself.) Vliet’s laptop combines with careful bass and drums to produce an ambient sonic landscape, over which his luscious vocals soar.

While the band plays a mix of songs from the old and new albums, it is new songs like Soon Soon, with its repetitive drum beat and You Said Hello with its catchy melody that really stand out. From the previous album, the groovy Beg is clearly a favourite, as is the heartbreakingly delicate Draw the Line. The band finishes with the haunting Switch Off, leaving the audience spellbound. I don’t think there is a single person in the room who isn’t in awe of Hunz by the end of the set and I feel privileged to have been one of the first to see these beautiful songs performed live.