Haha Sound

(CD - Warp #WARPCD 106X)

Review by

On their early singles and brilliant debut album, The Noise Made by People, Broadcast's commitment to crafting meticulously, ethereally beautiful atmospheres gave their music a detached quality that made them somewhat difficult to embrace fully. This isn't the case on Haha Sound, the band's second album. While their music still sounds like it could've been crafted by ghosts in the machine, now Broadcast give it flesh and blood through more warmth and texture. As with the Pendulum EP, Haha Sound's more human touch comes through in its looser, more intimate, and rougher sound. But aside from being warmer and more textured, the album is simply more, as its first three songs reveal. The delicately spooky nursery rhyme "Colour Me In" begins the album with the wistful, childlike viewpoint that creeps into Haha Sound from time to time, its layers of chopped up, sawing strings giving it an oddly and sweetly tentative feel. "Pendulum" finds the band digging deeper into their psychedelic influences, with acid rock drumming and flashback-like washes of sound making it one of the most tense, driving tracks they've recorded. The Pendulum EP suggested that the entire album might be as wired and dissonant as this song, but tracks like "Before We Begin" quickly prove otherwise. A superstitious song about reuniting lovers, it's gorgeous pop in the vein of "The Book Lovers" and "Come On Let's Go," but more approachable and that much more alluring because of it. The rest of Haha Sound more or less follows in the footsteps of these songs, but the variety that the band instills in the album makes it far from monotonous. A big part of Haha Sound's expansive feel is Trish Keenan's increasingly expressive vocals; while she can still occasionally seem to be hovering slightly outside the songs, her delivery is much more vulnerable and emotive. She's soothing on "Valerie," which is Broadcast's idea of a folk song or lullaby -- although with all of its eerie background noises, sleeping with one eye open is suggested -- ecstatic on "Minim," and poignant on "The Little Bell," another sweetly childlike song that sounds like Keenan is singing inside a broken clock. Noisier aspects find their way into interludes like "Distortion" and "Black Umbrellas," a curious, fuzzy oompah that picks up speed like an out-of-control assembly line. "Man Is Not a Bird" concludes with a playful, Raymond Scott-esque percussive exercise. The spirits of Scott and Joe Meek haunt the album's carefully deconstructed sound, most obviously on its more extreme tracks, but even on gentler songs like the flight of fancy "Lunch Hour Pops," which has a giddy, space-age sweetness akin to the Tornadoes' "Telstar." This song, the beautiful "Ominous Cloud," and "Winter Now" suggest that Broadcast could probably make dozens of immaculate pop songs like these if they wanted to, but all the detours the band takes are precisely what make the more perfectly crafted songs so precious. Haha Sound may not be Broadcast's most superficially perfect album, but it's a more challenging and exciting one because of its deliberate imperfections.

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