Haha Sound

Back in the late '90s, a gaggle of British musicians bonded over their love for the United States of America, a peculiar '60s psychedelic act that used primitive synthesizers and no guitars to glorify hallucinogens and satirize contemp(tible) society. Forming the combo Broadcast, the Brits set about crafting songs that captured the spirit of USA, fusing "the avant-garde with pop and rock," as bassist Tim Felton said in a recent interview. (Thankfully, they decided to ignore the '60s group's hippie-dippy lyrical content.)

While Broadcast's early singles and first LP, 2000's The Noise Made by People, were inventive and alluring -- featuring sultry female vocals, melancholy sci-fi keyboards, and '60s pop undercurrents -- the group hadn't fully executed the USA concept until its new full-length, Haha Sound. Here, Broadcast sounds wonderfully archaic and wholly modern, drawing influence from folk, doo-wop, and early electronic musicians, and adding aggressive drones and peculiar noises to its ethereal songs. On "Colour Me In," bubbling, wheezing synthesizers give Trish Keenan's cool, agile vocals a darker edge, while on "Valerie" the echoing reverberations and thick feedback push her nursery-rhyme cadence into the land of children's nightmares. With its blurry synth and cooed vocals, "Winter Now" sounds like a girl-group transmission from Mars; the funky percussion and shimmering chimes of "Man Is Not a Bird" suggests Astrud Gilberto in Atlantis.

Lyrically, Broadcast still deals in vague, celestial dread (song title: "Ominous Clouds"). But now, a couplet such as "I will not lament the sky/No longer feel night on the inside" comes wrapped in syncopated beats and nerve-rattling whirrs, making it feel romantic and sad and deep. That's the band's secret: By mixing freaky noise into its swooning pop, Broadcast has reinvented psychedelia as time-spanning poesy.


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