The Noise Made By People

And as with all things made by people, not machines, it was worth the extra wait...

In 1997, lo-fi experimentalists Broadcast disappeared into the studio to record their debut album. The urbane atmospherics of their singles compilation ‘Work And Non Work’ had established them as possibly the only Birmingham band ever to appeal to both discerning bleep-o-philes and black polo-neck-clad [a]John Barry[/a] disciples, and it seemed likely that they would emerge with one of the last great retro-modernist albums of the century. As it happened, they didn’t.

After toiling for too long with a series of producers who failed to understand their obsessive perfectionism, Broadcast finally built their own studio and started again from scratch. Their complete immersion – one can’t help but imagine the band in white lab coats, assiduously dissecting antique wireless radios – is manifest in every shadowy, intricate moment of ‘The Noise Made By People’, an album so autonomous and remote it sounds like it’s being beamed from a deep-space probe.

The Broadcast laboratory is a place where murky [I]noir [/I]soundtracks are amalgamated with wayward jazz and psychedelic electronica. Theremins whir, synths pulse and clocks chime eerily in the distance. Trish Keenan‘s nonchalant vocals hover over deconstructed waltz rhythms and flickering pulses of unidentifiable noise with an uneasy – sometimes downright sinister – beauty. Thankfully, however, ‘The Noise…’ is just as concerned with unhurried, pliant pop music as it is with navel-gazing avant-gardism.

So ‘You Can Fall’ is one part pristine torch-song lament, one part frayed-wire distortion; ‘Unchanging Window’ is soft-focus Spector ’60s girl group; ‘Long Was The Year’ straddles the line between grainy black-and-white Catherine Deneuve nostalgia and stark, console futurism; and ‘Minus One’ sounds like the soundtrack to an educational film about flower pollination. Broadcast have struck a balance between intellect and emotion, using technological detritus – scratchy phonographs, crackly radio silence, the flap of a finished film-reel – to bolster their woozy romanticism. Ultimately, for all its detached self-sufficiency, this is a warm, mysterious and very human record. And as with all things made by people, not machines, it was worth the extra wait.