Broadcast and the Focus Group - Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age LP


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Label: Warp

Our Review:

Crystal balls, dark mirrors, Ouija boards, seances, creepy knocking, music boxes that play themselves, creaking doors, and distorted kaleidoscopes are just a few of the fascinating hauntological associations mined in the latest collaborative effort by long time shop faves, Broadcast, and new to us electronic outfit, The Focus Group, run by Ghost Box label head Julian House (who also designed all of Broadcast's record covers).

Billed as a mini-album (23 tracks across 50 minutes), Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of The Radio Age is all at once a mesmerizing sound collage, a mind-warping concept album, a reimagined soundtrack to some chilling psychological cinema (we're thinking of films like Dead of Night, Secret Ceremony, The Ballad of Tam Lin, Persona, Angel, Angel Down We Go, or Simon, King of The Witches), as well as an homage to the obscure left-field psychedelic electronic music and sounds of the sixties and seventies that have influenced Broadcast over the years. Bands like White Noise, The Animated Egg, Basil Kirchin, United States of America, British Library Music and of course the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

So as you probably guessed from the description above, this is not a typical Broadcast release, but a experimental detour while we await for their next official full length. Fans of their full lengths may be less immediately satisfied by this, as it's not designed to be enjoyed as a pop record. It often requires either deep listening, or having it on while working on a solitary activity, such as painting or knitting, or better yet tarot card reading. While Trish Keenan's lush and dreamy singing is heard through out, there is only one typical Broadcast song, opener "The Be Colony," a woozy lullaby that hearkens back to the dreamy melodies from the HaHa Sound album, and even that is thrown in the delirious blender of The Focus Group, who took recordings made by Broadcast for this project and cut them up in a method to suggest automatic writing under a deep hypnosis. Disembodied voices, blowing wind, flashes of jazz drumming, eerie squeeches and electronic bloops, radio dials shifting, whining puppies, crows cawing, mysterious choirs and echo-y playground rhymes. Very ghostly, and sometimes beautifully creepy. It's the kind of strategy that may sound like it could get tedious after awhile, but the collage is so delicately and carefully constructed with just enough structured melodies that it wonderfully forms an intriguing narrative, of course aided by suggestive song titles like "Reception/ Group Therapy," "Ritual/ Looking In," "Libra, The Mirror's Minor Self..." and "Drug Party." We think that people who are less inclined towards Broadcast's pop albums and into spectral sounds, occult music compilations, electric voice phenomenon, experimental electronic music or music on the Type or Miasmah labels should definitely give this a listen. We haven't been so spellbound by a record in quite a while. Fantastic!