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Broadcast - HaHa Sound

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Artist: Broadcast

Album: HaHa Sound

Label: Warp

Review date: Aug. 19, 2003

Lauded Laughter

Hailing from the same industrial wasteland as Black Sabbath, Birmingham’s Broadcast has gone the opposite route of Ozzy, Tony and company. Where the original Sabbath tried to capture the desolation of living in a such a gloomy place, Broadcast opted to create a stylized world revolving around the French Yeah Yeah movement, while also tying in pulsating Krautrock drones and a bit of Left Banke sophistication.

“Pendulum" has to be inducted into the rhythmic groove hall of fame. Seriously, the song produces the same propulsive madness as Can's "Mother Sky" only remade and remodeled via a Françoise Hardy inspired chanteuse, which makes it the perfect introduction into the wondrous world of Broadcast.

HaHa Sound lives up to the expectations established by their debut full-length, The Noise Made by People and squashes Broadcast’s reputation as Stereolab Jr., seeing as the 'Lab has operated on auto-pilot since Dots and Loops. Taking tips instead from the Velvet Underground, the boys and girl of Broadcast have learned that sometimes rhythm can be as intoxicating as melody. The group's straggling of these two elemental pop ingredients is one of its most appealing aspects. A song like "Man is Not a Bird" slowly builds from a straight , 4/4 drumbeat and morphs into a marching band-infected seabed of reverberated poly-rhythms allowing for Trish Keenan's cooed and detached siren vocals and Roj Stevens' lulling keyboard parts to serve as the melodic fulcrum. This seems to be the common dynamic of HaHa though the ratio between melody and rhythm changes with every song, sometimes mid-stream.

Still, it's easy to see the common links between Broadcast, Stereolab, Laika and etc., and see where some could call ‘foul’ with accusations of plagiarism. The not-so-recent reissues of the Neu! catalogue demonstrate that like blues music, fundamental ideas can be recycled without necessarily succumbing to redundancy. Is Broadcast such a group? Maybe. On paper, this seems somewhat easy – like an erector-set strategy to writing songs. What makes HaHa enjoyable, however, and what many of the band's contemporaries have forgotten is how to walk the tight rope between influence and irony. It seems that with HaHa Sound, Broadcast is subtly developing a personal aesthetic, assimilating all that comes across their path but rarely allowing the elements to overwhelm their on ideas. Hopefully, they can keep up the balancing act.

By Paul Burress

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