November 16, 2010

Broadcast and The Focus Group – Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age
electronic, psychedelic-pop, found sound, musique concrète

Imagine you’re standing at the entry to a very long hallway, lined with doors stretching out before you farther than the eye can see. Behind each door is a small room containing the sound captured from a certain time and place. It could be an instrument, a song, a concert, a TV show, a telephone, a conversation, a radio transmission, a nursery rhyme, a piece of machinery, a childhood memory, a waterfall or some other ambient environmental noise. Imagine that, as you stand there, the entire hallway is tilted ninety degrees, transforming it into a seemingly bottomless tunnel, and you’re falling into it in slow motion, Broadcast and The Focus Group - Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Agedrifting endlessly further down (at this point, you have to forgive me for the blindingly obvious Wonderland parallel, but bear with me). As you fall, the doors floating past you begin to open and close, seemingly at random, revealing snippet after snippet of disparate sound, emerging, overlapping and disappearing again before they can fully take shape. Barring a few brief forays into more fully realised musical exploration, that rabbit-hole-esque scenario is precisely what it feels like to listen to this album, the first joint-effort between UK art-pop group Broadcast and electronic musician Julian House a.k.a The Focus Group. It’s essentially 3 or 4 brief psych-pop songs with hundreds of slices of musique concrète scattered about them, neatly divided into 23 tracks, many of which don’t reach the two-minute mark. It’s surreal, disorienting and occasionally unnerving, but mostly it’s just really, really dreamy. If it sounds challenging, that’s because it is, but far less so than you’d expect, thanks to the meticulous degree of care and craftsmanship displayed by both parties in piecing together this wonderful collaboration. I’ve often heard claims of albums with hypnagogic properties – I’d argue that Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age comes closer to genuinely fulfilling those claims than any album I’ve heard before.



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