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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Broadcast: Berberian Sound Studio OST


BROADCAST: BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO OST (2013)

1) A Breeze Through The Burford Spur; 2) The Equestrian Vortex; 3) Beautiful Hair; 4) Malleus Maleficarum; 5) Mark Of The Devil; 6) Confession Modulation; 7) Monica’s Fall; 8) Teresa’s Song (Sorrow); 9) The North Downs Dimension; 10) Collatina Is Coming; 11) Such Tender Things; 12) Teresa, Lark Of Ascension; 13) Monica’s Burial (Under The Junipers); 14) Found Scalded, Found Drowned; 15) Monica (Her Parents Have Been Informed); 16) The Fifth Claw; 17) Saducismus Triumphatus; 18) The Gallops; 19) They’re Here, They’re Under Us; 20) Collatina, Mark Of Damnation; 21) Treatise; 22) A Goblin; 23) The Equestrian Library; 24) The Serpent’s Semen; 25)Burnt At The Stake; 26) All Chiffchaffs; 27) The Curfew After The Massacre; 28) Poultry In Mind; 29) The Sacred Marriage; 30) Valeria’s Burial (Under The Fort); 31) Edda’s Burial (Under The Clumps); 32) The Game’s Up; 33) It Must’ve Been The Magpies; 34) The Dormitory Window; 35) Anima Di Cristo; 36) His World Is My Shed; 37) Collatina’s Folly; 38) Here Comes The Sabbath, There Goes The Cross; 39) Our Darkest Sabbath.

Trish Keenan's death from pneumonia at the odd age of 42 (way too late to join the «27 Club» — not that there would be any reason in the first place — way too early from every other possible point of view) would seem like a sufficient reason for James Cargill, as the sole remaining mem­ber, to retire the Broadcast brand. However, he is not in a visible hurry to do that: like the remai­ning Doors members after Morrison's passing, his chances at future notoriety without a charisma­tic frontperson are rather feeble.

Besides, the old vaults have not been completely emptied yet. First and foremost comes this soundtrack, on which the Broadcast duo had already begun working prior to Keenan's sickness and death — although Trish's vocals are only present on one of the tracks (ʽTeresa, Lark Of As­censionʼ), floating somewhere out there in the aether without actual words. The soundtrack is for some obscure, and generally poorly rated, arthouse movie by British director Peter Strickland, and has the odd distinction — odd even for a soundtrack — of containing more separate tracks than the actual time of its duration (39 tracks in 37.5 minutes, almost a personal record in my col­lection unless we're talking Napalm Death or something). And by «odd», I don't exactly mean «beneficial» — the overall effect is irritating rather than stunning.

Normally, Broadcast with their moody, repetitive organ-grinder panoramas would be an ideal band for some particular types of soundtracks — for movies like Scorsese's Hugo, for instance (if anything, they'd definitely beat Howard Shore). However, Berberian Sound Studio is simply not that kind of movie: it is a meta-film focused on the psychological problems of a foley artist en­gaged in creating sound effects for an Italian horror movie, or something like that — simply not the kind of topic that would be particularly suitable for a Broadcast score, so I'm fairly sure they just did it for the money (or maybe for food, since it is hard to imagine any significant revenue from this sort of movie).

Furthermore, although I have not seen the movie, nor do I plan to, it actually seems that the sound­track gives a highly distorted perspective of it. Mixed in with the many melodic and ambi­ent fragments are snippets of dialog that mostly stem from the «movie within the movie» — some generic Omen-style Satanist crap consisting of horrified whispers, shit-scared prayers, possessed babbling, hysterical screaming, the works — and the idea you get is that Broadcast, for no good reason whatsoever, simply produced a score for some trashy C-level movie, when, if I get this right, within the actual movie the «trashy C-level movie» only serves as a background setting for the real «drama», none of which translates understandably well onto the soundtrack.

Which brings me to the obvious constatation: it would have been much better if all the silly Ita­lian dialog ("Malleus maleficarum! what is it?", etc.) were scrapped, and the remaining voids were filled in by longer, fuller, more satisfying versions of the instrumental tracks — most of which barely exceed one minute in length, fleeing the listener's attention as if too modest to sur­mise that any of them really deserved it. Well, personally, I can't even tell. ʽLark Of Ascensionʼ is a pretty enough piece of «psychedelic church music» (think Catholic mass run through several successive waves of reverb), and ʽOur Darkest Sabbathʼ, closing the album, is a curious mix of the religious and the pastoral, what with the «church organ» and the «woodwind» themes inter­laced with each other so tightly. Both of these run over three minutes, which allows the dedica­tion of at least one phrase to each.

Everything else is in the same vein — medieval organ patterns and somber recorders / flutes domi­nate the scene in nine cases out of ten, which is not really what «genuine Broadcast» is all about, but is still done well enough to matter if any of these themes were given a chance to unfurl. As it is, you are basically looking at a large series of barely begun sketches, interrupted, every now and then, with stuff that did not need to be there (worst of the lot is ʽA Goblinʼ, which sounds more like a lame parody on a goblin than an actual goblin — of course, that is the way it was intended to be in the movie, but how are we to guess?).

If you adjust your antennae long enough, there is always a chance of transforming these 37 mi­nutes into a personalized trip, under the pretext of «Broadcast and Satanism — a once-in-a-life­time combo!». But as far as I'm concerned, some potential combos are best left alone, and this one, at least the way it has been molded into an album release, is a pointless oddity, particularly disappointing in its adding nothing to Keenan's legacy. Thumbs down.

Check "Berberian Sound Studio OST" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Berberian Sound Studio (OST)" (MP3) on Amazon

4 comments:

  1. Dunno where you're getting the "poorly rated" idea from, the film's got a respectable 74% on Rotten Tomatoes. Not that it really matters.

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    1. For the record, I trust the IMDB (and the RYM) way over Rotten Tomatoes.

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    2. The film is a good short bungled into an over-extended feature length. Tediously stretched, it should have been 30 mins max.

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  2. Thank you for reviewing Broadcast, one of my favorite bands. A bit disappointed that you chose the quick tour, however, skipping both of their EP/Singles compilations. Especially since both "Work and Non Work" and "The Future Crayon" are the GOOD type of compilation (no overlap with albums) and both are FAR better than either "Witch Cults" or this latest album.

    I agree with you that Broadcast was much better as a charming, odd electronic pop act rather than an experimental group. Too bad they often chose to ignore their strengths.

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