Unspun Heroes – The ‘Synthetic Psych Gorgeousness’ Of Broadcast

Digging up buried treasure from the depths of our collections.

HaHa Sound
(Warp, 2003)

Seven years after a spacious lullaby of a debut single entitled ‘Accidentals’ in 1996, three years after debut album ‘The Noise Made By People’ and into a world mostly waiting with bated breath for The Strokes’ ‘Room On Fire’, this Birmingham trio’s masterpiece was quietly birthed.

Like its entrance, differences between this and what had come before are subtle – their synthetic sound refined rather than reinvented. In contrast to its title, their first album felt very much like the work of machines but on their second – honed in the bedroom of bass player James Cargill – some homemade, human rough edges sneak in and the true identity of this most special of British bands reveals itself.

The clatter of the drums in ‘Before We Begin’ (recalling the finest ’60s psychedelia) to some extent characterises the songs here, as of course do the woozy, dissonant keyboards that so defined Broadcast’s first phase. But it’s the shifting of Trish Keenan’s cooed vocals into the foreground that makes these songs so special. Before, her beautiful melodies had almost been used as another instrument in a collage of sound; now the likes of ‘Man Is Not A Bird’ and ‘Ominous Cloud’ revealed a quite unique pop sensibility.

For certain, ‘Minim’, ‘Distorsion’ and most of all the closing ‘Hawk’ exhibit the experimental tendencies you might expect of so-titled songs, but throughout ‘Ha Ha Sound’ there is an accessibility and immediacy that works quite beautifully in tandem with the musical adventure. It is that rarest of things: a record that sounds completely and utterly otherworldly, yet oddly familiar and comforting.

Many of the records revisited in this column by nature inhabit their own little space, oblivious to anything else happening in the outside world, and Broadcast’s second certainly fits this insular mould. Posterity be damned, though; music would be a duller place without such little-visited nooks and grottoes of colour.