BROADCAST – ” The Noise Made by People / Tender Buttons “

Posted: December 26, 2021 in MUSIC

Birmingham birthed 2 of the best space pop bands you’ll ever hear in the late 90’s – one being Pram, and the other being Broadcast. “Tender Buttons” is Broadcast’s best project. Working as a two-piece yielded the best results – culminating in a true encapsulation of what Broadcast and Trish Keenan were all about – discovery (check out Trish Keenan’s Mind Bending Motorway Mix for proof). As a band who were seemingly always pushing their own envelope forwards, “Tender Buttons” feels like the perfect album to close out their main discography with – an experimental, fragile and gorgeous project that is truly close to my heart, and will soon be close to yours.

After a number of EPs and an appearance on the “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” soundtrack, Broadcast released their full length debut, 2000’s best album bar none as far as this writer is concerned. Utterly bewitching, “The Noise Made People” still sounds like pop transmitted from another dimension, detached from time and space. Every detail is considered, from the eerie synthesizers (part sci-fi, part Italian horror film), to the snap of the snare, the ambient sounds of electricity that hum lowly in most songs, and the artwork that seems to have been made from old computer punchcards.

Broadcast 'The Noise Made By People' LP

Trish Keenan’s beguiling, mysterious voice seals the deal on perfect songs like “Echo’s Answer” and “Come on Let’s Go.”

After being mired in the studio for nearly three years, Broadcast returned with their first proper full-length album, ‘The Noise Made by People’, a collection of more shimmering, weightless pop that is nostalgic for yesterday’s visions of the future but remains on the cutting edge of contemporary music. Where their early singles (collected on 1997’s ‘Work and Non-Work’) painted small, quaint portraits of their retro-futurism, “The Noise Made by People” delivers their sound in widescreen, filmic grandeur.

Richly layered yet airy pieces like the album bookends, ‘Long Was the Year’ and ‘Dead the Long Year,’ seamlessly blend symphonic, electronic, and pop elements into smoky, evocative epics, while synth-based interludes such as ‘Minus One’ and ‘The Tower of Our Tuning’ present Broadcast’s more detached, scientific side. Likewise, Trish Keenan’s air-conditioned vocals sometime suggest a robotized Sandie Shaw or Cilla Black, but her humanity peeks out on ‘Come on Let’s Go’ and ‘Papercuts.’ ‘Echo’s Answer’ and ‘Until Then’ are two of the other highlights from the album, which despite all of its chilly unearthliness, is a noise made by (very talented) people.LP – Vinyl re-press of debut album from Broadcast, originally released on Warp Records in 2000. 

Broadcast 'Tender Buttons' LP

Now a duo following the departure of guitarist Tim Felton, Broadcast have swapped the rich textures and multiple layers of previous records for a much rawer and grittier sound, based on dry electronics, bass, processed guitars and singer Trish Keenans deadpan voice. stripped down to its bare essentials, the music shows broadcast under new lights, bringing Keenans bittersweet and often surrealist lyrics right at the forefront. recorded entirely at Keenan and Cargills home in Birmingham and produced by the band, ‘Tender Buttons’ is a far more intimate record than its predecessor. the recent single, ‘Americas Boy’, hinted at more minimalist soundscapes, and this is confirmed on the album.

Yet, this serves Broadcast rather well. on songs such as the ‘Superb Black Cat’, ‘Goodbye Girls’ or the annoyingly catchy ‘Michael a Grammar’, Keenan and Cargill work around frail distorted electronics and interferences on which they add guitars, bass and linear drum beats. elsewhere, on the more subdued ‘Tears In The Typing Pool’ or ‘You and Me in Time’, they craft delicate backdrops out of guitars and subtle sine waves, evoking in places a space-age velvet underground. if ‘Tender Buttons’ reveals a more purely electronic approach, broadcast are miles apart from the electro glam of goldfrapp. their soundscapes have more in common with that of the radiophonic workshop than that of giorgio moroder.

Broadcast released three studio albums “The Noise Made by People” (2000), “Haha Sound” (2003), and “Tender Buttons” (2005)—as well as several EPs and a collaboration album with the Focus Group titled “Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age” (2009). Their most recent release is the soundtrack album Berberian Sound Studio (2013).

Keenan died on 14th January 2011 at the age of 42, following complications with pneumonia, which she suffered from after earlier contracting H1N1. Cargill, the sole remaining member, said in a 2011 interview with Under the Radar that a new Broadcast album was in the works, featuring vocals recorded by Keenan shortly before her death. He later said: “Trish left a lot of tapes, four-tracks and stuff, and I’ve been going through those. It’s difficult, and I’m connected to it at the same time. It’s wonderful, but I’m also feeling a sense of loss. The next thing I release with Trish on it will be more like a monument and a tribute to her rather than this obsessive thing I used to have about making albums.” As of 2021, however, the album has not been released.

Aside from founding members Keenan and Cargill, Broadcast has experienced regular line-up changes. The band has included Roj Stevens (keyboards), Tim Felton (guitar), and Steve Perkins (drums). Keith York, Phil Jenkins, Jeremy Barnes, Neil Bullock and Ash Sheehan have also featured in the band as touring or session drummers. As of 2005, Broadcast consisted only of the founding duo. Following the death of Keenan in 2011, Cargill remained the only member.

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