Rarely does a gem shine out from the dull ground of contemporary electronica, but when one does it should be treasured. Such is “Ha Ha Sound,” Broadcast’s second album.
The ’60s have clearly had an influence on Broadcast that extends beyond the group’s fondness for turtleneck sweaters. Eulogizing The Velvet Underground, they erect a screen of noise and guitar feedback as a foil for the cool, fragile vocals of singer Trish, while their confessed love of often bizarre European library music (stock music for film/TV use) helps explain the presence of the quirky instrumental passages.
Their sonic turbulence, however, recalls nothing so much as psychedelia. In particular, the ghost of Pink Floyd raises its acid-addled head on several occasions, from the soft acoustic guitars carrying Trish’s whispered invitation to “Lay down your dreams on my pillow,” on the lullaby “Valerie,” to the energetic freak-out of “Pendulum,” a paean to hypnosis. The surreal workings of the mind and the illusory nature of reality and time are some of the recurring themes explored in the half-told stories on “Ha-Ha Sound.”
The nursery rhyme of “The Little Bell” manages the implausible feat of resembling both the nonsensical ditties of Syd Barrett (“Now deep inside my wooden clock there is a tick and not a tock, although into the room it chimes, it only tells me half the time”) and the grammatical eccentricities of Yoda (“Why do you leave me so confused? I’ll miss my bus, my job I’ll lose”). But like the best nursery rhymes, many of Broadcast’s oblique tales are laced with disturbing imagery; “Colour Me In” hints at personality crisis; “Ominous Clouds” takes us into darker territory; and “Hawk,” finishing the album, abandons us there with the lines “Speak your words, define my grief for me, out of reach, some things just cannot be.”
Welcome to “Ha-Ha Sound,” kids, but be aware it’s wintertime in wonderland.
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