Lemerged from three discs of the English electro group Broadcast is a pretext for a lover to evoke the object of his fascination.
You step into a deranged, Broadcast-obsessed mind, formed just as the onslaught of Britpop was in full glory. In 1995, the era was indeed one of rock egoism in English music, but a couple from Birmingham – Trish Keenan and James Cargill – stood out from the lot of this time in the negative. No big images and no big boots: their compositions indicate a mystery, the keyboards seem pinched and the voice is not that of a spectacular figure but of a singer, of a human being. Broadcast discs will have titles as dazzling as they are cryptic (The noise made by people (2000), Haha sound (2003), Tender buttons (2005), Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age (2009), Berberian Sound Studio (2013).
If the 60s hiss gently in their influences, there is something unheard of here because Broadcast was the first group leaning towards pop to be signed on the great Warp label, home of Aphex Twin. Just informative? I don’t think so, because an irreducible singularity is already present in the astonishing arrival within this independent record company which set one foot in ultra-modernity and the other in the future. Broadcast, in fact, is not turned towards technological escape but points to the interior of being. Having this experience is easy, the three discs now put back into circulation – sessions in the Maida Vale studios of the BBC, instrumental experiments and a dreamlike album made available to the public during the last tour – allow us to approach fifteen years of existence of the work.
I think it takes a few seconds to fall into the absolute charm of Keenan’s voice because it’s just an invitation. In the song Come on let’s go in 1995 these are the soothing words of a muse: You won’t find it on your own, you’ll need help and you won’t fail if I’m by your side. And Color me in in 2003 says that we are in the galaxy of a cerebral group: I have to be real because I feel that somehow I am just an idea (…) Today or next year, I will always be there, ready to be colored. Incredibly there, persistent music that lingers in its wake, even after the tragically senseless death of Trish Keenan in 2011 at the age of 42 after contracting the H1N1 virus while performing in concerts in Australia. I like to read in interviews that this woman, whose life (real, concrete, beyond any artistic career) was entirely turned towards music, listened every day for several years to an obscure, psychedelic and labyrinthine eponymous record, released in 1968 and which stands in secret at the exact opposite of the grandiloquent name of the collective which is its author, The United States of America. I like to know that when we asked the couple-group the titles of a mix posted on their site when the Internet appeared, they answered that it would be too easy to know their references. I deduced from this, without the years that followed contradicting the idea, that access to their records required involvement, that it was an ordeal, and I was delighted with this constantly renewed initiation rite. I also love knowing that every January 14 – the anniversary of Keenan’s death – photos of her appear on social media because they confirm that I am still accompanied by her ghost. She has long black hair and stares into space. She wears polka dot dresses in front of large colorful tapestries. Or, she opens the space with her hands. She plays with her own absence and the body drives the song which always slides towards total introspection. Trish Keenan’s voice – I can attest to this – is indeed that of a fairy: listening to her, nothing distracts me from her diligent presence and her advice. With it, what the psychoanalytical catechism roughly calls nocturnal material becomes a musical wave and song. Dreams are summoned in songs; Keenan, who often practices Freudian (and by extension surrealist) free association, makes room for a miracle to be celebrated. I hear this woman singing as if she had just woken up or was about to fall asleep and this incredible calm, sometimes whispered, disturbs my disorder and my nervousness. They face the general unrest. With the melodies of Broadcast, listened to tirelessly, I also learned to be silent and to deepen the inclination towards silence. Lyrics of Message from home: Why do I open my mouth when I know silence should have been? Forgive me, you know how to speak English but here is all the same a wonderful question to ask yourself in the evening, in society, in love or in friendship: why open your mouth when silence itself should be imposed?
Have you arrived here and already concluded that Broadcast’s songs cause bouts of musical snobbery? You are probably right. In The book lovers in 1995 the lyrics said well Read the sign at the top of the door: it’s not for everyone. Keenan is gone but his secret lives on. He has plenty of time.
broadcasting, Maida vale sessions, Mother is the milky way, Microtronics 1 and 2vinyl, cd and digital releases on March 18, 2022, Warp Records.