“People now know what we are meant to sound like”: Cult duo Vacuum to drop debut album, nine years after their formation 

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“People now know what we are meant to sound like”: Cult duo Vacuum to drop debut album, nine years after their formation 

Words by Alex Callan

Since 2013, Jenny Branagan (NUN) and Andrea Blake (ASPS/Chrome Dome) have been collaborating as Vacuum. Now, they are finally releasing their debut album.

“Jenny and I started playing music together because we were both meant to join a different band that we decided we didn’t want to join. They were so beautiful and melodic and we just felt like we were ruining it.”

Having first formed as a live project in 2013, it feels like Vacuum’s debut album has been a long time coming. And considering the duo features Jenny Branagan of Nun and Andrea Blake of Chrome Dome and ASPS, it’s not really a surprise that Vacuum’s long-awaited first album is already being renowned as a cult Melbourne release.

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But, whilst elements of the duo’s sound feel like a natural extension to the dissonant synths; bass-heavy drum machines and cinematic soundscapes of their other projects, others feel much more bohemian and new, namely the groups use of self-recorded and then sampled metropolitan soundscapes.

“We set out to make mechanical soundscapes…which sounds ridiculous but literally all that means is we recorded some metal things banging together,” states Branagan.

“There was a house under construction that I’d always walk by that had an opening in the back so I invited Jenny to come along and bang some things together,” adds Blake.

“It was pretty much a Saturday afternoon just walking around this construction site testing out what sounds everything made.”

“I remember jumping the fence and throwing our sandals across first,” laughs Branagan before adding, “Then we went to the Lygon street car park and started banging trolleys around into empty spaces, on a Saturday as well! People would have just thought, ‘who are these poor women?”.

After capturing soundscapes like the rear reverse tone of a truck and the metallic clank of shopping trolleys and then syncopating it alongside a flurry of drum machines and synths, the group then turned to marshes and creeks of Melbourne for their sampling.

“This time when we were recording it was in lockdown, so we went to all the creeks because they were within the 5km radius,” says Branagan. “I have a kid now as well, so we would take her and the two dogs and then be precariously balancing over a creek cradling the baby to make sure she wasn’t falling in.”

“You can hear her screaming and the dogs panting in some recordings,” laughs Blake.

“We wanted to be more organic this time” she adds, “so we met by the creek to try and get some fluid sounds or some squelchy sounds, something that wasn’t as harsh. Or harsh in a different way. It’s a bit more visceral.”


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After capturing these scapes (with microphone and plastic cup used for better acoustics), the duo then set about to sampling; looping and turning this sporadic collection of noises into music, which were initially only displayed in a live setting and according to Blake, have never “been 100 per cent the same song.”

A freedom which she’s grateful for, stating, “Having that time to play live together, before we had recorded anything or put anything up online was actually really great because it gave us the chance to experiment around and change it up depending on which venue or sound system we were using.”

“There is also a lot of room to improvise within the constraints that we have set for ourselves, so it was good to have the room to play around.”

“If anything that’s the bad thing about having a recording, people now know what we are meant to sound like.”

A statement affirmed by Branagan, “This is an issue.”

Vacuum’s debut self-titled album is out Friday the 18th via Heavy Machinery/It Records and Flash Forward Melbourne. Preorder your copy here.