Reviews - Week 29

HaHa Sound by Broadcast

Broadcast

HaHa Sound - Cd LP

Warp Records

Picture the scene:

Glimmering steel structures on either side, catching the sun as a slow wind meanders through the skyscrapers, lifting the scorching heat of the day. A crowd of fantastical creatures on a day trip to this reality stop to stare. Above and around them, a thousand impossibly glamorous identikit women glide by, applying their lipstick as they sit in the back seasts of vehicles that float several feet off the ground.

I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong, it isn't the Bullring. Its the city on the moon. The city in this album.

That said, the city is more familiar than it seems. Broadcast hail from Birmingham, and there's something of that city's newborn industrial beauty in this music. The album opens to scraping, hissing, banging noises as the Wurlitzer sounds of 'Colour Me In' swing and shimmer their way into being. Its a song about creation, or of wanting to be created and appropriately enough the vocals are accompained by background noises that suggest a construction taking place. Perhaps that's an electric saw you can hear as you watch a sleek red car soar by and hear the Wurlitzer going out of tune.

Driving the album on is 'Pendulum', the closest thing to a pop song here. You could imagine the driving rhythm, drumbeat and organ blaring from car windows all over the land, if only more people listened to songs about drifting through undiscovered universes:

'I'm in orbit/Held by magnet/ And the force feels/ So much closer than love'

Not, then, the kind of thing there's much danger of Emma Bunton singing in the near future, especially as the vocals cease and the drum beat glides over the sound of electronic alarms and mechanical scraping before fading into the slower, shimmering 'Before We Begin'.

In other hands, some of this could feel soulless. Not so here. Even on the first hearing there's a tremendous warmth and longing for closeness within the steel and concrete. 'Valerie' is a lunar love song. Distorted vocals echo and slippering organ noises resemble caterpillars climbing over craters,whilst the words implore: 'Lay down your dreams on my pillow, before bed'. Valerie apparently left her lover alone, staring at the city, but there's a brightness from a moment of sharing. 'Man Is Not A Bird' brings a suggestion of a drum-and-bass beat to the morning after, over which the vocal floats and gentle chimes accompany vows not to lament.

'Minim' builds on this, it picks up the tempo and is beautifully glamorous as those supermodels in the glittering lunar sports cars return and glide past the listener. This is the atomic dream, the space-age utopian vision, and everyone smiles, though the smiles hide sadness. 'Lunch Hour Pops' sounds like a pretty song about watching balloons float by in the sun, and on one level it is. On another level, the song is about healing, catching yourself before you go too far and finding those quieter moments where your mind is clear.

The darkness returns in the drumbeats and vibrations of 'Black Umbrellas', and 'Ominous Clouds' harbours more dreams of escape, a gorgeous piano glimmering and echoing the sadness of watching the clouds drift away.

'Distortion' is another noisy interlude - more drums and banging on pipes, but it works in this context, coming before the sad, short repetitions of 'Oh How I Miss You' and the skipping, nursery-rhyme evoking 'The Little Bell'.

It feels as if the album might be dropping away, until you hear 'Winter Now'. This is a truly beautiful song. The music swings - this is almost a ballad, with an ethereal vocal accompaniment which fades, leaving only the noise of an organ and slithering strings, like an organ being played in an empty hangar and echoing unevenly from the walls.

The album closes with the menacing 'Hawk'. The machine noises that recurr through the album offer an uneasy reassurance as they fade into sonar bleeps, radar and statice - the last words of the album are 'Out of reach/ Some things just cannot be'. Perhaps this refers to the fledgling idea of the opening track, now too big to control. Perhaps its the sound of a moon drifting out of orbit. Perhaps its just a moment's sadness as the realisation of being alone becomes complete.

And 'HaHa Sound' is gone as strangely as it came, leaving a trail of stars in its wake. You might just find yourself wanting to follow because with each subsequent listen this gets better - the emotion underneath the superficial coolness becomes more touching, yet the gleam of the surface captivates a little more. This may be the city on the moon, but its also somewhere many of us have inhabited. The music once imagined floating across a lunar landscape now feels more familiar, closer to home, more immediate. Perhaps that city on the moon is Birmingham after all. And that big blue dome..? It can't be...

Dammit, the place never looked so good.

Ian Anscombe

 

 

 

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