Thursday, October 13, 2011

Trish Keenan / Broadcast

I’m fairly late in eulogizing Trish Keenan, but there is no reason to omit my own brief tribute to her and her band, Broadcast.  I always liked Broadcast, but I didn’t really “get” them until recently when I connected them to their influences in mid-sixties psychedelia and early electronic music.  This would have been, of course, obvious to any of their fans, but it just clicked for me since lately I’ve been interested in why the mid-sixties holds a profoundly mysterious and unshakable attraction for me.  According to Simon Reynolds, in his new book, Retromania, it was around 1966 that the last really new thing appeared in Pop culture, and we’ve been recycling ever since.  It was also about that time, at age 10, I think I started to become aware that culture could be something beyond mere entertainment.  At that time, culture was represented primarily for me by The Beatles and The Avengers (you have to start somewhere).

Broadcast's beguiling sound combined almost folksy, lullaby melodies, with layers of experimental effects evoking vintage electronic music, wrapped in an atmosphere of creepy darkness.  Their first full length album, Noise Made By People (2000), was reminiscent of mid-60’s pop.  HaHa Sound (2003) delved into a more swirling, psychedelic style, and Tender Buttons (2005) was reduced to minimal arrangements, à la Young Marble Giants.  Their compilations of rarities and B-sides are treasured for their more experimental work, some of it sounding very much like Julian House’s project, The Focus Group.

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been playing Broadcast’s 3 full-length albums over and over and over, along with their collaboration with The Focus Group, Witch Cults of the Radio Age (2009), which, I suppose, must stand as their last release.  The first track from their first album, " Come On Let’s Go," has continued to have some kind of haunted hold on me.  I’ve been going to sleep with it running in my head, and then waking up to it still looping in my mental ear.  There’s something about the beginning that is so unsettling.  At first it sounds as if it’s in the Lydian mode, until the second chord, which is the tonic, and you realize that it all started on the IV chord instead of the I.  The B section is quite sophisticated too, it’s a stream of lovely modulations.  The bones of Broadcast was great songwriting, the results of which evoke, for me, what could have been hits by 60’s British girl singers, like Petula Clark, Lulu, or Cilla Black, if they had collaborated with Delia Derbyshire.

Here’s the official video for Come One Let’s Go, from 2000.

Broadcast performing "Come On Let's Go" live on Jools Holland's Later show in May 2000, two months after the release of their first full-length, The Noise Made By People.

Trish died in January of this year from complications with pneumonia after battling the illness for two weeks in intensive care, having contracted H1N1 following the band's December 2010 tour in Australia.

Broadcast performing "Lunch Hour Pops" live at the HiFi bar, Melbourne, Australia, only 4 weeks before Trish’s passing:

One more video, this one directed by Trish for the song, "Black Cat," from the album Tender Buttons (2005).  It appears Trish had an eerie and beautiful eye for visual art as well: