VINE VOICEon 27 November 2003
If a second album is often deemed as difficult, with Broadcast, it started right from their first. Three years in the making, following problems with producers, The Noise Made By People finally came out in 2000, almost four years after the band released their first single.
Formed in 1995 in Birmingham by Trisha Keenan, James Cargill, Tim Felton and Roj Stevens, Broadcast rapidly got associated with Stereolab and Pram, mostly due to their use of analogue synthesisers and their take on experimental pop. The band’s first single, Accidentals, was released a couple of years later on Wurlitzer Jukebox, with the subsequent two, Living Room and The Book Lovers, being released that same year on Duophonic Super 45s. Signed by Warp shortly after, the three EPs were collected on Work & Non-Work. On The Noise Made By People, Broadcast seemed to leave behind the unsettling atmospheres of their previous EPs to focus on tight, well written pop songs, albeit their influences, firmly set in the psychedelic area of early electronic experimentation – they name the Velvet Underground and the unique album by The United States Of America as main influences – still showed much leftfield attitude. Songs such as Unchanging Window, Come On Let’s Go or Look Outside especially demonstrated a great maturity in term of finely balancing uncompromising sonic treatment and beautiful melodies. More consistent than Work & Non-Work, this first proper album, and the live performances that followed, established the band as one of the most interesting British acts around.
Mostly recorded at Cargill’s house towards the end of last year, Haha Sound arrives hot on the heels of Pendulum, first EP in two and a half years, and a string of live dates in the USA and Europe. On this album, the band, now a trio following the departure of Roj Stevens in 2002, continue to expand on their sound, bringing more ambient noises into the naïve melodic scope and destabilising further their perversely innocent songs. The album opens with the short and poetic Colour Me In, on which Trish’s voice appear as bitter-sweet as ever on a bed of old-fashioned electronic noises, before heading down to business with the magnificent Pendulum, already held by some as one of their best songs to date. With a distinctive mid-to-late sixties experimental feel to it, it is actually one of the most straightforward songs produced by Broadcast so far. Relying more and more on cinematographic references, the band’s inspiration for Valerie is partly to be found in the little known Czech horror / fairytale film Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders. The lullaby-like melody progresses over soft guitars, defying the threatening underlying noises growing in the background. Alternating between songs and a few instrumentals strategically placed, Haha Sound appears more spontaneous and lighter than its predecessor. if the difficulties encountered during the recording of The Noise… affected the atmosphere of the album, this new opus benefits of an easier process. The melodies seem simpler and less contrived, and despite the more complex soundscapes developed here, the resulting general mood of this record is definitely less tormented. Songs such as Before We Begin, Lunch Hour Pops or Ominous Clouds are precious little pop jewels, beautifully served by Keenan’s falsely innocent lyrics and nonchalant vocals, while The Little Bell, one of the most disarmingly charming moments on this album, echoes the poetic touch of Colour Me In. On Minim, Black Umbrellas or Oh How I Miss You, the Broadcast of the early days filters through once more, reminding that if the band might have progressed enormously since, they are still very much in touch with their origins.
Broadcast’s sophisticated vision of pop music is not as elitist as it may seem. Fruit of a much less complicated creative process, Haha Sound is far more opened and airy than its predecessor, demonstrating that Broadcast can also have some fun.