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Broadcast - Ha Ha Sound

Review: Jack Foley

AND now for something completely different.... Broadcast's first album for three years is a completely surreal affair; an at times beatiful, at others psychotic, mix of psychedelia and funk which is as breathtaking as it can be downright annoying.

Broadcast hail from Birmingham and are comprised of Trish Keenan ( on vocals), James Cargill and Tim Felton. The album was recorded in James' house bar, except for the drums, which were taped in a church hall across the road.

And the result is like taking a drug-induced nostalgia trip through the soundtracks of the Seventies, with many songs recalling the infectious haze of Lalo Schifrin-based scores.

The album works best when delivering complete records - that is to say, when Keenan's sexy, innocent vocals are backed by a consistent beat, or background melody.

Unfortunately, it is not a consistent effort, with certain tracks spiralling out of control in a mixture of bleeps, drum loops and different directions that feel like experimentation for the sake of it.

The soundtrack comparison, therefore, is particularly appropriate, given that the scores to many movies are frequently punctuated by musical moments which sound lost without a scene to accompany them.

Try listening to the sprawling mess of Minim, or the appropriately named Distorsion, if you're not sure what I mean. They will have you reaching for the skip button before you get even halfway through.

But let's focus on the positives, of which there are many. Keenan's vocals are, for the most part, sublime, lending a hypnotic quality to many of the melodies and beats which help to transcend the cinematic influences, while evoking memories of Dubstar, Saint Etienne, or, more recently, Ladytron.

Whether it's recalling children's nursery rhymes (during tracks such as Lunch Hour Pops, or The Little Bell), 60s pop (Valerie), or the art of seduction (Oh How I Miss You), there is a dream-like quality about them, which, according to one journalist, float above the electro-pop like an indie-pop Mary Poppins.

If you can recall the vocal beauty of Petula Clark's Downtown, then you're pretty much at the sound of Broadcast; although the accompanying soundscapes are far more tripped-out.

Needless to say, for an album which thrives on its ability to deliver on the surreal, it is a very acquired taste.

Those who prefer not to be challenged, musically, or require structured, safe music, will find themselves lost; while the annoying moments do tend to grate (rather like watching an art-house movie that feels pretentious for the sake of it).

But with so much to admire, not least the affecting, enchanting, and abstract beauty of Keenan's vocals, Broadcast's Ha Ha Sound is well worth tuning into, and could well be a plesant surprise to many.

Track listing:
1. Colour Me In
2. Pendulum
3. Before We Begin
4. Valerie
5. Man Is Not A Bird
6. Minim
7. Lunch Hour Pops
8. Black Umbrellas
9. Ominous Cloud
10. Distorsion
11. Oh How I Miss You
12. The Little Bell
13. Winter Now
14. Hawk

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