Will Williams

17:16 24th September 2003

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After a series of nearly-great singles for Warp, and with the promise already shown by their previous album, the pressure is really on for Broadcast to deliver. Haha Sound opens with a series of whirrs, hums and clicks, which sounds not unlike someone dropping a tin tray down a flight of stairs whilst listening to their Spectrum load up after fifteen years in the attic. This curiously tinny melee soon gives way to a tune, however, and the lovely barrel organ nursery rhyme of Colour Me In soon gives way to the gleaming gem that is Pendulum. Happily, it still sounds like Ladytron jamming with Julee Cruise inside a freezer, and you could be forgiven for thinking that the reclusive trio have decided to get all their highlights out of the way as early as possible. Lucky bastards that we are, there are even more treats awaiting us further into the album.

The typical Broadcast trick is to fuse looped recordings of live drums, reedy organs and tinny effects with vaguely folkish melodies. On paper, this may not be particularly exciting, and admittedly they occasionally wander into sounds reminiscent of the classic musician's excuse that is jazz. It's all held together, however, by the beautifully spectral vocal of their frontwoman Trish Keenan, and the skeletally atmospheric mix turns the phrase 'self-produced' from the refuge of the damned into an admirable quality.

They don't always stick to their template either. Valerie is an eerie acoustic-guitar-led mini-masterpiece that resonates with chilling ambiance, and the Angelo Badalamenti lounge opera of Lunch Hour Pops truly deserves the term 'classic'. Even despite the pointless drum interlude Black Umbrellas, you can't escape the thought that if David Lynch were ever to make another series of Twin Peaks, Broadcast are the perfect, ready-made troupe to recreate the theme tune.

If there's a single complaints to made about this record, it's that, at 14 tracks, it's a little too long and a little too much to absorb in one listen. That said, this will probably be one of the best unheard records this year. Our advice? Buy it; its unfeeling sang froid will soon warm you up like an igloo. And even if they're not really laughing, you'll definitely be smiling.

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