Tears In The Typing Pool

I’ve been listening to the new releases of old material by Broadcast. This includes a wider release for the Microtronics mini-albums that were sold at gigs on the 2003 tour, and the Mother Is The Milky Way album from the 2009 tour. There is also the BBC Broadcast Maida Vale Sessions with recordings from 1996-2003.

I saw them as the opening support act for Stereolab in 1996, and that main band may be their inspiration for releasing tour-only singles and mini-albums. The other support act that night was Squarepusher, who also went on to have his own little niche in the world of vaguely “alternative” music that appealed to modern jazz people and readers of The Wire. I still have my copy of “The Book Lovers” EP and I still think “The World Backwards” is a great thing that could and should have been a crossover hit in that strange late-Britpop world where “Your Woman” by White Town and other oddities could break in to the top 10 if Marc Riley and others supported them. This was not long after Portishead had had great success with “Sour Times”. But I don’t think it would have made much difference, apart from them having a bit more money to spend and a bit more time to take getting their sound the way they wanted. It was a compararatively long time waiting for the proper debut album The Noise Made By People to come out in 2000, and it had the potential hit of “Come On Let’s Go”, but that didn’t do anything. All of their albums have hits-that-weren’t: “America’s Boy” being another one.

Before that first album there was the interim compilation Work And Non-Work in 1997, which I remember trying to buy while I was out-of-work and getting my card turned down. That period takes up the first half of the Maida Vale Sessions, and it’s a suprise to see that an early version of “City In Progress” was already being aired as work-in-progress in 1996. What I remember of seeing them live is that there was a false-start on the first song, and they had to quickly begin again; I think their career had a jolt initially as well that held up this material being ready. The later sessions in 2000 and 2003 were for John Peel and so of course there weren’t any more after that.

The Microtronics album brings together 2 mini-albums that each contain 11 short non-vocal pieces, none much longer than 2 minutes. The original CDs were of the wonderfully cute 3-inch variety that not many acts bothered with. All 11 tracks are untitled, they are listed as “microtronics 01”, “microtronics 02” etc. on the sleeve which misleadingly gives the impression that the “Volume 01” and “Volume 02” tracks corresponded in length at tracklisting position. All these sound-excerpts are interludes of oscillators and muffled clattering looped around, possibly what would be produced if someone at Ghostbox Records started to train an AI system to generate new releases and save money paying any humans to be involved in their business model. At moments it recalls “Drums On Fire”, one of the tracks on the EPs from 2000.

Mother Is The Milky Way has Trish Keenan adding some vocals, but there also murky and distorted. We are still very much in the world of imaginary weirdy 60s/70s minor Brit occult horror film soundtracks, with pastoral samples drifting in with the white noise and static shifts and haunted lullabies. The tracks have titles like “Innocence In Orbit” and “The Aphid Sleeps” and of course there are no lyrics underneath those headings. And of course also put out the collaboration album Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age, in some ways this is another installment.

I think there were 3 phases to Broadcast’s music: the early work up to the end of 2000, which was relatively commercial; then the middle period 2000-2005; and after that a late period when they were becoming something else. Trish died, but the sound is still all around. “Tears In The Typing Pool” plays on.

Succumb to the line
The finishing time
The long distance runner
Has stopped on the corner
But I won’t give up
Although I’ve stopped too

Before the end of me and you
The patchwork explains
The land is unchanged

Interpret the rooms
My tears in the typing pool
The letters are sighing
The ink is still drying
I told you the truth
And now I sigh too

The page turns on me and you
Across that white plain
The land is unchanged

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