After releasing three exceptional albums, Broadcast made the fans wait few years for what would be their magnum opus. Trish Keenan and James Cargill turned to Julian House of The Focus Group (responsible for artwork of Broadcast’s records) for help on this one and the result was less a standard LP, more an experiment. Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age is the least straightforward (and naturally the most difficult) offering by the band but it was named by The Wire as the greatest release of 2009 for a reason. Let yourself in and discover an unbelievable sonic collage that is an homage to the ’60s and the fascination with paganism and drugs/mind relationship, and an exercise in limitlessness of music at the same time. The word “radio” does not appear by chance. Listening to this album is like turning the knob and getting various radio waves: sometimes it is a strange mansion party, the other time – a ritual chant. Broadcast and The Focus Group collected a vast collection of haunting samples. For, mostly, Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age feels like a soundtrack to a forgotten horror. Think of The Wicker Man or Rosemary’s Baby yet with its 23 tracks the mood is rather changeable. One is for sure: it will haunt you for a long time. The best moments come with Trish singing. The Be Colony opens with spooky Ra ra ra and turns into a demonic mantra. It is not hard to imagine naked ladies dancing for their black master soundtracked by this tune. I See, So I See So is one of the lightest tracks as it deals with solar matters. On the other hand, Libra, the Mirror’s Minor Self is mysterious and has that kind of evil burnt on it that at first lures you and then enjoys making you suffer. Make My Sleep His Song bewitches with fantastic organ. The song feels like a lost soul lament. Finally, the last song reuses The Be Colony motif to glorious effects. It is time to wake up from the nightmare but to enter Broadcast’s final vision to date simply make the disc spin again. All Broadcast fans should also hear Mother Is the Milky Way EP (In Here the World Begins is highly recommended), a limited CD from the last tour of the Birmingham dreamers.

hydrameter: 5/5

Key Tracks: I See, So I See So, Libra, the Mirror’s Minor Self, Make My Sleep His Song, The Be Colony, The Be Colony / Dashing Home / What on Earth Took You?, What I Saw

Watch The Be Colony: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqINetENovg

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The Future Crayon is the second compilation album by Broadcast which entered the music market one year after the unbelievable Tender Buttons. It gathers various tracks and b-sides previously released on EPs and singles. Many bands would sacrifice their drummers for some of those songs for almost none of them feel like a work of poorer quality. While there are no standouts like You Can Fall, Hawk or Black Cat, The Future Crayon is a very coherent and enjoyable listen. Most of the tracks are instrumental and they witness band’s eagerness to experiment. The first song, Illumination, is a standard Broadcast tune with Trish’s stable yet mesmeric voice playing the main role. She is even better on Distant Call. Here, the singer is only accompanied with drums and analogue echo (piano turns up later). The third non-instrumental track worth mentioning is called Poem of a Dead Song. One of the most adventurous works is Hammer Without a Master (great title). Chord Simple is very melancholic and beautiful. Finally, Dave’s Dream is quite a psychedelic odyssey through some intriguing mind(s). The Future Crayon might feel too long but this is the basic feature of a compilation.

hydrameter: 4/5

Key Tracks: Chord Simple, Dave’s Dream, Distant Call, Hammer Without a Master, Illumination, Poem of a Dead Song

Listen to Illumination: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hO09aqwTQo

To blend electronic and organic into a state of balance is a triumph that probably only Broadcast could achieve. In other words, Tender Buttons rocks. Less analogue, more jarring this time – the third LP by the wizards of Warp finds them exploring new territories. The beats has become crude, even provoking but the whole album is surprisingly melodic and, horror of horrors, danceable. Black Cat is the best example of Broadcast’s new aesthetics: heavy and frigid but vibrant. It is also the best track here. America’s Boy and Michael A Grammar find the band in a similar mood. Those missing the old Broadcast will be satisfied with the opening I Found the F; it is when the band say goodbye to the past, ready to open a new chapter in their career. Arc of a Journey is a tender if dissonant sci-fi ballad. The most polished track and another standout is the instrumental Minus 3, also known as Evil Is Coming (I like the latter title best). Besides the omnipresent beats, the album has some great guitar moments: the title track is almost folk. In many songs live instruments play a major role. Tender Buttons confirms the status of Broadcast as the masters of electronica, left-field, sometimes cold and haunting but always hypnotic and full of emotions. If this is a sound of a glacier, then it must be melting.

hydrameter: 5/5

Key Tracks: America’s Boy, Arc of a Journey, Black Cat, I Found the F, Michael A Grammar, Minus 3

Watch Black Cat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOobFF1mXLU

Haha Sound is considered Broadcast’s masterpiece. While it’s definitely not my favourite, it’s still fantastic, a work of musicians who know how to use their talent in full. This already being a classic of electronica, Haha Sound finds the band in a peculiar moment. The song structure reminds The Noise Made by People; however, Broadcast begin to evolve a new sound which takes a surprising turn on their next electrifying LP, Tender Buttons. This record is ghostly, mysterious, yet unexpectedly forceful. Man Is Not a Bird is a true rumble, the drumming simply paralyses. On the other hand, Before We Begin is a charming lost track from the ’60s. Finally, the best things come to those who wait. Hawk, which closes the record, is probably the best song by Broadcast. Gloomy and hypnotic, it makes me fall into a trance whenever I listen to it. The sonic explorers blend harpsichord, percussion, electronic beats and Trish Keenan’s subtle voice to a stunning result.

hydrameter: 4/5

Key Tracks: Before We Begin, Hawk, Man Is Not a Bird, Pendulum

Listen to Before We Begin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZNt3geXtJo

The Noise Made by People is the first proper album by the English retro-futurists Broadcast. And it is also one of their best. The Noise gets its excellence in two elements: the usage of analogue techniques with modern recording and the haunting vocals by the late Trish Keenan. Her voice seems to guide us through the bleak mood of the songs like a light in the tunnel. A rather feeble light indeed. The band’s fascination with the ’60s is obvious, yet the group’s sound is as innovative as it is unique. Few chords and one can easily recognise Broadcast. Various electronic effects enrich their tracks without making them chaotic and incoherent. The album has no lows and plenty of highs. Echo’s Answer is simultaneously delicate and astounding, and if you listen carefully you might hear the abyss recorded. The more direct Papercuts introduce a joyous vibe. And finally whenever I hear You Can Fall the song sends shivers down my spine. A perfect score for a low-budget sci-fi? As long as it is cult classic.

hydrameter: 5/5

Key Tracks: City in Progress, Echo’s Answer, Papercuts, Unchanging Window, Until Then, You Can Fall

Watch Papercuts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5ZJ-N750Bk

With the death of the mysterious Trish Keenan, the history of Broadcast, one of the truly best bands in the world, came to an end. She was not only the face of the group thanks to her role as a vocalist but also the driving force for the four-piece who ended as a duo (Trish was an active writer). Yet she will be remembered for her icy voice – the space vehicle which would take the listener to the journey of outer music. Work and Non Work was Broadcast’s first serious release. It’s not a studio album but nine delicious tracks taken from their singles. You didn’t have to be a music critic to know that something unique was born. Accidentals open the record with a touch of ghostliness. Keenan hovers somewhere above the analogue noise and the strings. The Book Lovers are more earthly but still haunting thanks to a fantastic harpsichord. The occasional drums remind us it’s not a dream. The track fades away with an ambient closure. Phantom is a sci-fi themed instrumental and a fine invitation for the chilly We’ve Got Time, obviously a standout. Lights Out close the LP with a promise of upcoming greatness which happened very early for on Broadcast’s first studio album, The Noise Made by People. This is how the string of staggering, puzzling and ambitious works began.

hydrameter: 4/5

Key Tracks: Accidentals, Lights Out, The Book Lovers, We’ve Got Time

Listen to The Book Lovers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxrr0o23j_8

 

TRISH KEENAN R.I.P.