Collecting most of Broadcast's EP tracks, B-sides, and rarities from The Noise Made by People and Haha Sound eras, Future Crayon is a welcome reminder of how consistently interesting the band's output is. Indeed, the band's other EP collection, Work and Non-Work, flowed just as well, if not better, than many other groups' full-length albums. Future Crayon isn't quite that cohesive, but it does chart how Broadcast's sound developed during that time, and also includes some tracks that even die-hard fans might have missed the first time around. The collection begins with a string of relatively poppy songs that rival the quality of anything that appeared on either The Noise Made by People or Haha Sound. Extended Play Two's "Illumination" is particularly gorgeous, opening with an insistent bassline and Trish Keenan's coolly lovely voice before achieving lift-off with clouds of backing vocals and art-damaged synths. Meanwhile, "Still Feels Like Tears" from the Pendulum EP takes the title track's stripped-down psych-rock in a lighter, sweeter direction, while Extended Play's "Where Youth and Laughter Go" begins as a clockwork lullaby and then swells into quintessentially Broadcast-like sci-fi lounge-pop. Future Crayon then delves into the more experimental side of the band's music, which usually only appears as brief interludes on their albums. 1998's "Hammer Without a Master," which originally appeared on the Warp comp We Are Reasonable People and is one of this collection's rarest tracks, is an especially striking collage of horror-show organs and death-surf guitars grounded by jazzy drumming; along with "Daves Dream," it sounds like a more elegant version of the sound Add N to (X) was pursuing at the time. The aptly-named "Chord Simple" is a lovely, oddly affecting instrumental that appears twice here, both on its own and as a part of a harder-edged version of "Unchanging Window." While the decision to put most of the more accessible tracks on the first half of the disc is understandable, it doesn't always make for the easiest listening -- sometimes, it feels easy to get lost in the more abstract moments later on in the collection. Nevertheless, Future Crayon is a must for Broadcast obsessives and a good way for casual fans to explore some of the rougher edges of their music.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares