The PNAU Effect
7 Apr 2022
It’s hard to believe the rich and extraordinary history of Australian electronic outfit PNAU has entered its 25th year. All the way from their formation as a teenage rave duo made unintentionally famous by way of uncleared sampling in the mid-90s, to their global chart-topping single 'Cold Heart' with Elton John and Dua Lipa; PNAU have proven time and again that their creative output is far greater than the sum of its parts.
Though projects like Empire of The Sun or songs like 2013 Euro dance hit ‘Changes’ might spring to mind, these are just small threads within the complex tapestry of PNAU. Their many and varied collaborations of PNAU, though reflecting the enigmatic beauty of their own production, always offer something new, different and exciting every time.
With such a varied and rich body of work, it is near impossible to simply list out the breadth of PNAU’s artistry and creative influence - so join us for chronologic deep dive into the complex universe of PNAU and their many and varied projects!
The PNAU Effect - A Visual Guide
Two high school friends, Nick Littlemore and Peter Mayes, together romanced by illegal raves, house and acid techno, created the producer duo PNAU in the early 90s. Breaking onto the scene in 1999 with the ARIA award winning album 'Sambanova'.
This sample-heavy body of work traversed the spaces of disco, house, future jazz and electronica. Despite its success, the album was later stripped from retail stores due to uncleared samples. Ever unstoppable, 'Sambanova' was soon after re-packaged and re-released with tracks reworked or removed entirely.
Taking the duo from Sydney's underground into clubs and dance parties around the country, it was the eponymous self-titled 'PNAU' album 8 years later that truly cemented the group’s place into the Australian dance music zeitgeist. It was this self-titled album that introduced the pair to the world of collaboration. By drawing upon the skills of others, rather than recorded samples, PNAU’s production expertise were supercharged as they uncovered a limitless world of opportunity. A stand-out moment from this time was the song ‘With You Forever’ featuring Luke Steele - lead singer of Australian alt rock band, The Sleepy Jackson.
Fostering a cult following, this hit was the fundamental inception (initially dubbed Steelemore) of the globally-beloved and artistically charged project Empire Of The Sun. With 3 studio albums to their name, the band achieved multi-platinum acclaim in Australia, UK, and Germany and later captured the minds & charts of the USA by way of a well-placed TV synch and subsequent Ellen performance.
While on an Australian tour, the 2008 'PNAU' album piqued the interest of Sir Elton John, who claimed that it was “the greatest record he’d heard in 10 years”. The OBE awardee was so engaged by the duo’s creative production that he offered PNAU the master tapes to his early 70's albums, inspired to hear their take on his classics, modernised. The very same album was also sampled heavily by emerging producers as file-sharing and dance music production took over the western world. No more impressive than the work of Faul & Wad Ad who sampled album single ‘Baby’ which went on to become a European Summer hit single ‘Changes’ - A Top 5 single in over 20 countries.
With ever growing momentum and a reputation for delivering the unexpected, the inertia driving PNAU toward collaboration lead Nick Littlemore to Montreal, commissioned to compose the score for Cirque Du Soleil's touring arena show 'Zarkana'. Connecting with hundreds of theatre and orchestral musicians through Cirque Du Soleil and Empire of The Sun, he began to forcibly wield the power of collaboration that is now a PNAU staple.
With no shortage of new projects at hand and an ever-growing obsession to knowledge share and incubate new talent, Nick and Peter knew founding a record label was the best way to support the artists they collaborate with while allowing them to share their creativity with the world. Thus their artist label Lab78 was born, creating an outlet for their newest projects. Since its launch in 2018, Lab78 has set PNAU’s creative output alight - establishing the careers of woozy dance act Vlossom, Tasmanian electro duo Sumner, raw indie rock darling Ivy Rose and the infectious bounce of Djanaba.
Blooming out from the Lab78 camp this year will see a pulsating EP from Sumner, 'Chameleon' and 'Go Bang' singer, Kira Divine steps out with her first PNAU produced solo singles which has an authentic disco edge. PNAU themselves will have new solo music landing in a matter of months, as well as two more 'PNAU Remix' releases with heritage global superstars. Sign up to the etcetc newsletter and be the first to know more!
All That Glitters – Forming in 2012, All That Glitters is the dance collaboration of Mark Alston (PS1) and Peter Mayes. The pair released their first single ‘This Sound’ in 2012 and have more recently released their brand new track ‘We Need More Love’ this year.
Brain Flowers –the organic and otherworldly collaboration of Nick Littlemore and Butter Bath’s Toby Anagnostis. Their debut single is called ‘You’re Not Alone’.
Cinema Sounds– Cinema Sounds is the collaboration between British singer songwriter Reuben James, and Nick Littlemore. The five track ‘Cinema Sounds 1.’ released in 2020 fills a space of cinematic soundscapes and organic tones.
Djanaba – First Nations artist and triple j Unearthed Collab Competition winner, Djanabaentered the studio with Littlemore and set out to explore a topic close to her heart - female empowerment, passive control and gender judgement. The result is ‘Big Titties’, an uplifting and meaningful taste of electronica.
Elton John vs PNAU – A collaboration materialising with the 2012 remix album Good Morning To The Night. Producing singles such as ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Sad’, this was just the beginning for PNAU and Elton John. It was the 2021 PNAU remix of ‘Cold Heart’ that catapulted the collaboration back into the world and topping charts worldwide.
Empire Of The Sun –the alternative dance collaboration of Nick Littlemore and The Sleepy Jackson’s Luke Steele. A project spanning three albums and major singles including ‘Walking On A Dream’, ‘Alive’ and ‘We Are The People’.
Faul & Wad Ad vs PNAU – The soundtrack to Summers all over the world in 2013, French Electronic duo Faul & Wad Ad sampled PNAU’s 2008 single ‘Baby’ to create the tropical house hit.
Groove Armada feat. Nick Littlemore – Initially collaborating on the 2010 Grammy Nominated album Black Light, Nick Littlemore’s work with London electronic duo Groove Armada produced singles such as ‘Warsaw’, ‘Tripwire’ and ‘Get Out on the Dancefloor’.
Ivy Rose – Following an impulsive click on Ivy’s Youtube in 2016, in 2018 PNAU flew to Austin, TX to record an entire album with Ivy Rose.. The first dream pop, psych rock single ‘I’ve Been Watching You’ was released in 2021 capturing a Stevie Nicks sound with a heartbreaking edge.
Sumner – Young Tasmanian duo who are managed by PNAU’s Tour Manager. In a chance 2 day session in LA the 4 wrote and recorded Australian cult hit ‘Stranded’, and “South”.
Teenager – Formed in 2004, Teenager was the art rock, punk dance band of Nick Littlemore which heavily featured Phillipa Brown (later known as Ladyhawke). Releasing singles like ‘Alone Again’, ‘Pony’ and ‘Bound and Gagged’.
The Two Leaves Project – Releasing a debut album Every Ocean Tells A Story in 2016, The Two Leaves Project is an ever-evolving experimental album project between Nick Littlemore and a revolving door of collaborators including Celia Pavey (Vera Blue), jazz virtuoso Reuben James , David Bowie keyboardist Henry Hey, musical linguist Tim Lefevbre, and Danny Harley (The Kite String Tangle). Inspired by DMT, albums are recorded with a set number of collaborators in one session.
Tonite Only – Formed in 2005, Tonite Only is the electro house producer duo of Sam Littlemore and Simon Lewicki (Groove Terminator). The pair released singles such as ‘Danger (The Bomb)’ ‘Where The Party’s At’ and ‘We Run The Nite’.
Vlossom –the pop, psych-rock collaboration between Nick Littlemore and Cloud Control’s Alistair Wright. Singles from the beautifully futuristic and enchanting project include ‘Catch Your Breath’, ‘Missing You’ and most recently ‘Open Your Mind’.
Zarkana – Premiered in 2011, Zarkana was a Cirque du Soleil stage production to which Nick Littlemore was the composer and musical director.
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