berberian sound studio - broadcast
'Berberian Sound Studio,' which contains Broadcast's soundtrack work for the recent Peter Strickland film of the same name (and which was composed and partially recorded before singer Trish Keenan's death in 2011), is a rather strange and unique--even scary--listening experience that recalls the band's collaboration with the Focus Group from a few years ago. It's more of a musical collage than an actual album, with 39 "songs" stuffed into its 38 minutes, producing a myriad of sounds and moods, and resulting in an extremely kaleidoscopic listen.
Much like their work with the Focus Group, these songs are heavily influenced by 60's and 70's European "library music" (music made cheaply available for use in TV shows and movies), especially the minimalist, retro/futuristic type used in the weird French and Italian art-house films from the era. The music in the 70's British TV show 'Space 1999,' for those interested, is a pretty apt comparison to the style found here, and a good example of the kind of library music Trish Keenan and James Cargill are influenced by, as that show used some of the same composers--sometimes even the exact same compositions--that those cult movies used.
But this soundtrack is so much more than just an homage. The music here needs to be experienced as a whole, imo, as each song blends seamlessly into the next, producing a vibe that is at times mysterious and ominous, at times blissful, and at times just-plain-horrifying. These tracks are mostly surrealistic mood pieces, with lots of drones and effects, no real lyrics, and seemingly very little structure, but songs like the hypnotic, eerie-yet-soothing "The North Downs Dimension" and the classic Broadcast, "60's futuristic" lounge-pop of "The Equestrian Vortex" are no less absorbing because of that. This is definitely not easy-listening music, as the overall effect of this album was nearly overwhelming for me at times, reminiscent of the worst, most nightmarish psychedelic trip you can imagine, but one that can also open your mind to a a whole new perspective--in this case, on the possibilities of music.
If all that sounds "fun" to you, then you may very well find the 'Berberian Sound Studio' soundtrack to be right up your alley. You should know pretty quickly from listening to the samples, however. For me, it was a mostly sublime, imaginatively stimulating experience--though very unsettling at the same time--and one that makes me even more depressed that we'll never get to hear any new music from the late, great Trish Keenan in the future. I can't imagine where Broadcast would have gone next, but if this soundtrack is any indication, their next true album certainly would have been something special, especially when combined with her and Cargill's melodic psych-pop sensibilities.
But I'm just glad we had her around for as long as we did. Few bands have left such a unique and eclectic repertoire behind, and there's no better evidence of that than this album.
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