Come On, Let's Go.
21Oct/092

Curiouser and Curiouser

I'm going to be seeing Broadcast live tonight, for what may be the fifth or six time. I was introduced to them during the same summer I mentioned in my first post and have loved and listened to them ever since. I don't remember how many college nights I spent, hanging out in the club room after hours, chasing down obscure live sets on Soulseek. Everything about them just hits me the right way: the affected, child-like plaintive seriousness of the vocals, the way the synths sound like they're playing themselves, making it up as they go along, the 60's-retrofuture aesthetic of the band themselves. So here's a quick rundown of their history, along with a few songs. We begin in 1968...

The United States of America cut their only album in 1968. The eponymous release was a mix of synthesized and organic music by frontman Joseph Byrd and Grace Slick-style vocals by Dorothy Moskowitz. Harmonies and melody was broken up by loops and distortion.

The following is the song this blog is named after. The single off Broadcast's first "real" LP, The Noise Made By People (Work and Non-Work, their previous major release was an EP compilation.) Listen to about thirty seconds of it, and you'll realize the connection between this and the previous video.

Brought together by a mutual love of the United States of America, Broadcast upped the electronics and dropped the folk from USA's sound, creating something distinct and contemporary. Drawing on Dororthy's vocals, Trish Keenan knows it is no longer the 1960s. She is sterner than Portishead's Beth Gibbons, but still letting more life escape her lips than Helena or Mira of Ladytron (N.B.: I started listening to the three at roughly the same time and will forever associate them.) The music strikes a balance too: the synths can grate, but they can also soothe, and more likely than not they'll do both (at the same time.)

Their sound didn't take any breaks from evolving. Colour Me In, the opener to Haha Sound, their third, and my personal favorite, album (seen above, played behind Andy Warhol's Poor Little Rich Girl, starring Edie Sedgwick,) brings on the strange. Here is the great divergence in their sound, split evenly between modernized psychedelic pop and alienating lullabies. I can't say I am particularly fond of their fifth album, Tender Buttons, for reasons I cannot explain or articulate outside of “I was too lazy to get into it when it came out.”

We are currently on the cusp of the (official) release of Mother is the Milky Way, their sixth release. The fifth was a collaboration with The Focus Group, which is the recording alias of Julian House. House is also known for being Broadcast's album cover designer and the co-owner of the Ghost Box Music label (which will be getting its own post, soon enough.) Broadcast's first release in three years and entitled Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age, the album sounds at once like their less pop-oriented tracks, and mellowed out moreso by the Focus Group's library music-calm. House's influence definitely “ages” their sound, taking it closer to the USA's – in contrast, the instrumentation on Tender Buttons verged on dance-pop.

So, now down to a duo from a quintet, Broadcast are on tour again. In two hours, I will get dressed and head out to the Music Hall of Williamsburg for the first time. Hopefully not just to get a dose of their brand of 60s nostalgia, but to get a dose of my own; of being a college freshman, scribbling off a half-assed history midterm, cutting just enough time to hop on the train and make it to my first Broadcast concert.

(Photo from Broadcast's official Myspace page)

   

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