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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Broadcast: The Future Crayon


BROADCAST: THE FUTURE CRAYON (2006)

1) Illumination; 2) Still Feels Like Tears; 3) Small Song IV; 4) Where Youth And Laughter Go; 5) One Hour Em­pire; 6) Distant Call; 7) Poem Of Dead Song; 8) Hammer Without A Master; 9) Locusts; 10) Chord Simple; 11) Daves Dream; 12) DDL; 13) Test Area; 14) Unchanging Window / Chord Simple; 15) A Man For Atlantis; 16) Minus Two; 17) Violent Playground; 18) Belly Dance.

This other compilation of Broadcast's «classic era» material nicely wraps up the rest of their odds and ends — a variety of tracks culled from singles, EPs, and various side projects that would be hopelessly lost otherwise. As it is, the assemblage makes for seventy minutes of additional mate­rial that is, at best, gorgeous, and at worst, just «nice».

There is a small whiff of deception, though. The first track on the album is also unquestionably the best one — ʽIlluminationʼ not only adds a stoner rock guitar line to the band's usual «magic organ» arrangement, but also has a vocal melody that is more Beach House than Broadcast, with Trish's voice pirouetting around and dropping from high to low pitch on a mesmerizing trajectory. It is so convincing in its majesty that, clearly, it was intentionally selected as the lead-in track — who could resist jumping in to check for even more of these hidden gems? Even if you suspect a trap, you will still be tempted to walk into it.

Well, «trap» might be a tad too harsh, but in terms of stand-out material, there will not be a lot waiting there for you further on down the road. Much, if not most, of the album is instrumental, meaning that if you are primarily into Broadcast for Trish, you might just stick to ʽIlluminationʼ. Even when she does sing, many of the tracks simply incorporate her voice in the background, in the form of a distant echo (ʽLocustsʼ) — merely one more atmospheric ingredient in an army of well-rehearsed tricks with the band's electronics.

More or less finished «vocal numbers», apart from the first and greatest track, include: ʽStill Feels Like Tearsʼ, a pleasant chunk of upbeat syncopated psycho-pop that still ends up drowning Trish in two rivers of feedback, each streaming out of one of the speakers; ʽWhere Youth And Laughter Goʼ, so light, fluffy, caressing, chimey, and echoey that not remembering Astrud Gilberto is a non-option; and ʽDistant Callʼ, where the dialog between the minimalistic bass guitar part and Trish's singing is thoroughly endearing, if not too memorable.

The further we go, though, the fewer «songs» there are, their places taken by impressionistic psy­chedelic sonic paintings — more and more of those old rhythms and progressions borrowed from classic Motown-and-the-like records and then heavily spiced, sugared, and peppered with archai­cally-sounding «baroque electronics». In other words, nothing unusual or atypical for Broadcast. Some of the tracks have a more defiantly avantgardist flavor (ʽDDLʼ; ʽMinus Twoʼ has so many beeps and bleeps that, if not for the occasional "aaahhh" on Keenan's part, you could mistake it for Autechre), but this is not totally atypical, either. There is also an alternate version of ʽUnchan­ging Windowʼ, adding little to the original.

Which all goes to say: the main problem of Broadcast was that they were way too much in love with their own sound for way too much time. An album like Tender Buttons strives to rise above «formula» and «background-ish-ness», and succeeds admirably well. But on normal average days the band was happy enough to just crank up the barrel and go along. We may think of it as a sign of modesty and humility, yet it definitely transforms the task of making people truly appreciate what they really did into a tough challenge. Whatever be, do not make the mistake of getting to know the band through this album — chances are that, even if ʽIlluminationʼ smites you, the rest of it will either bore or downright stupefy you. Needless to say, seasoned fans will not want to miss any of this — at the very least, this is far more genuine Broadcast than that wretched sound­track, or even that Focus Group collaboration.

Check "The Future Crayon" (CD) on Amazon
Check "The Future Crayon" (MP3) on Amazon

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