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Broadcast: Berberian Sound Studio (39 fragments)

January 15, 2013


  1. I do like this kind of thing.
  2. Berberian Sound Studio, the new album by Broadcast, has more tracks than minutes.
  3. That’s 39 in 37, if you’re interested.
  4. The album is a soundtrack, and a soundtrack-within-a-soundtrack.
  5. (Eerie, atmospheric electronic sound is often remarked on as sounding vaguely “like” a film soundtrack, but there’s something more definite going on here.)
  6. Berberian Sound Studio is tied in with Peter Strickland’s film of the same name, about an English radiophonic sound-maker.
  7. The composer or bruiteur, Gilderoy, goes to Italy to make a score for an Italian horror film.
  8. This leads to disquiet and derangement.
  9. Here is a still from the film:        Image
  10. The movie within the movie, The Equestrian Vortex, is not actually seen in Strickland’s film, but plenty of it is heard.
  11. Some of the music here, then, is the music of Broadcast;
  12. Some of it is the music of an implied or imagined composer from the past.
  13. This recording was conceived before the sad death of Trish Keenan, almost exactly two years ago.
  14. Trish’s voice appears here and there, thinly, beautifully.
  15. This comes from Dictaphone recordings made when material was being sketched, apparently.
  16. I probably don’t need to tell you that the effect is haunting.
  17. In many respects this album is a joy; it reminds me of the pleasure of miniaturization.
  18. Even leaving aside the connection to the film, you can choose to simply take this album as a nice old cabinet of curiosities.
  19. There are some lovely, some spooky, some grotesque treasures extracted from a fanciful library.
  20. The closeness to “library music” is meant to add up to something studious, like scholars finding horrors under dusty calf-skin.
  21. I mean, common to both the biblioteque and the discoteque is a sense of rising unease:
  22. That is, the menace of the archive, the dubiousness of reviving the past.
  23. Here is a preview of the album:
  24. What’s new? For one, a gorgeous horror-organ sound that keeps booming, at points, throughout the album.
  25. This album sits very nicely alongside Broadcast’s earlier, similarly fragmentful collaboration with The Focus Group, … Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age.
  26. It’s all quite a way from the songs on The Noise Made by People (dreamy, yet nightmarish;
  27. A distance, too, from the clipped stripped style on Tender Buttons.
  28. The fact that this is both soundtrack and meta-soundtrack might have opened up too many chances for self-parody.
  29. In fact, there are some movie-kitsch moments with screams and demonic babbling
  30. (then again, why shouldn’t there be?)
  31. These are balanced, though, by sweet pastoral airs, in particular a magnificent recurring theme.
  32. A proper hard modernist composer would have put the whole thing as one track, I reckon.
  33. Presenting the piece as thirty-nine tracks is the work of someone with a pop sensibility.
  34. Is there any difference?
  35. The film deals with the process of composing sounds (the point where everything’s still in bits and pieces, yet to be fully formed);
  36. Collecting these sounds leads to derangement.
  37. The bitty nature appeals to the listener as collector, and the collector as madman.
  38. Our collections are probably a good indication of the individual manner in which we will all, inevitably, become deranged.
  39. This soundtrack is a thing worth having.
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