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Broadcast - The Future Crayon

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Artist: Broadcast

Album: The Future Crayon

Label: Warp

Review date: Sep. 24, 2006

Birmingham group-turned-duo Broadcast get pegged as retrofuturists, and though it must be frustrating for Trish Keenan and John Cargill, their papier-mâché constructions built from modern antiquity – library music, 60s Italian soundtrack music, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the dazed pop of Elephant’s Memory’s “Old Man Willow” and The United States Of America – certainly fit retrofuturism’s brief. Keenan and Cargill string together new meanings via deliberate juxtaposition of the now with the retrofuturist’s then-for-now gaze, creating temporary aesthetic zones. Early electronics tuned into and helped guide the then-present’s projections of a fantastic future: Broadcast try to recreate that future within a present too indebted to its past. Dystopian science fiction was right to imagine the future as being just like the present only worse. Listening to Broadcast you feel out of place, as though you’re nostalgic for a parallel universe.

The Future Crayon (an excellent name, capturing the crystal-ball property of writing/creativity even as the scrying implement resonates with childlike, imaginational whimsy) collects EPs, b-sides and beyond from the period 1998-2003. (Another re-structuring of the past to suit the present.) The instrumentals compiled here are often abstractions that further bind singles and albums: “Minus Two” echoes “Minim” from 2000’s Ha Ha Sound; the gorgeous “Chord Simple” later mutates into glorious torch ballad “Unchanging Window/Chord Simple”.

Though the music-box electronics and surrealist edits of instrumentals like “A Man From Atlantis” exemplify Broadcast’s sense of play, their slightly detached, highly poised songs are (somewhat ironically) most moving. “Illumination” starts the record as drowsily as a child waking from long sleep; “Where Youth and Laughter Go” threads jangling bells and a coiling glockenspiel melody into one of the group’s best pop songs. “Poem of Dead Song” is an aria for suspended time. And Julian House’s artwork is typically perfect: geometric shapes drifting inside spirals, hands capturing droplets of multi-color, solarized textures in the background.

By Jon Dale

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HaHa Sound

Tender Buttons

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