Although a collection of B-sides, EP tracks and rarities, The Future Crayon is a great starting point for people new to Broadcast's blend of dreamy pop, experimental electronica and psychedelic rock.
Most of these tracks were recorded between 2000 and 2003, a very fruitful period for the group. Opener "Illumination" is one of the finest songs they've ever recorded, with it's one note picked bass line, swelling ambient strings and Trish Keenen's stoned vocal delivery. Elsewhere the band glides effortlessly from krautrock influenced pop ("Still Feels Like Tears"), to jazz improv wierdness ("One Hour Empire"), to space-age lounge ("Daves Dream"), and even into noisy electronic sound-collage ("Minus Two"), without ever sounding the least bit pretentious.
The band have often been compared to Stereolab, and with good reason, they share their love of analog synths, propulsive beats, ambient drone and experimentation, but Broadcast are by no means followers.
About halfway through, vocals take a backseat for several instrumentals, including "Test Area" which starts as a laidback, hazy jam but morphs into a sinister rocker, like a trip turning for the worst. Then there's "A Man For Atlantis", a schizophrenic little number which can't decide whether it wants to be choppy electro hip-hop or futuristic doo-wop, jumping between the two with no shortage of blips and blurps along the way.
Probably my favorite though, is "Unchanging Window/Chord Simple", an extended and more tripped-out version of a song from their 2000 album The Noise Made By People. This sounds kind of like if Jefferson Airplane relocated to Mars for an acid kool-aid test in outer space.
And just when you think there can't possibly be any surprises left, Broadcast pull one final trick out of their sleeve. The album closes with "Bellydance", a funky little instrumental taken from the soundtrack to an imaginary spaghetti western, complete with 8-bit video game sound effects.
I also have to point out the wonderful musicianship throughout. Although there's no information on who played what in the booklet, Trish Keenen has a fantastic voice, at times whimsical and others monotone, like a sexy android. The drummer is phenomenal, whether just keeping a steady rhythm or spazzing out on some funked up jazzy beats. A lot of the time you can't even tell what instrument you're hearing, is it heavily treated electric guitar, tweeked keyboards or some alien instrument only they have possesion of?
At 18 tracks and almost 70 minutes of wonderful sounds, you really can't go wrong. Brilliant stuff here indeed. Broadcast are definitely one of the most exciting, challenging and rewarding bands working today. Highly recommended.