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Led by James Cargill and Trish Keenan, Broadcast blended early electronic music, psychedelia, and '60s pop into music that was retro-futuristic, innovative, and often deeply moving. Though their inspirations spanned obscure film soundtracks, science fiction, library music, and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Cargill and Keenan's artistic vision was unmistakable -- as was Keenan's voice, which flickered between aloof detachment and vulnerability effortlessly. Despite their distinctive approach, Broadcast's music was always changing: On their early EPs and 2000's debut album The Noise Made by People, they contrasted sci-fi atmospheres and pop melodies with a jazzy elegance, but by the time of 2003's Haha Sound, the influence of library music and Czech film scores heightened the mysterious beauty of their style. With 2005's Tender Buttons, Broadcast pared down to the duo of Keenan and Cargill and similarly honed their music to its barest, most vital essence. Toward the end of the decade, they shifted gears again, collaborating with their friend Julian House on 2009's Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age, a deconstructed, sample-heavy EP that pushed the boundaries of psychedelic music and strengthened their ties to the hauntology movement spearheaded by House's Ghost Box label. Keenan's untimely 2011 death effectively ended Broadcast, with 2013's soundtrack Berberian Sound Studio providing a hauntingly bittersweet epilogue to their work. However, Broadcast's influence only grew in the years that followed, with artists including Rose Elinor Dougall, Melody's Echo Chamber, Vanishing Twin, and Petals for Armor taking cues from the duo's pioneering sound. Prior to forming Broadcast, Keenan started her music career while studying creative writing at Birmingham University. For a time, she performed as half of the folk duo Hayward Winters, then met Cargill at the 1960s psychedelic revival club Sensateria. They soon began making music together, first working as Pan Am Flight Bag for a couple of shows in 1995, then reforming as Broadcast in 1996 with the addition of guitarist Tim Felton, drummer Steve Perkins, and keyboardist Roj Stevens. Among the group's major influences was the avant-psychedelic group the United States of America, whose visionary self-titled 1968 album the band learned about from their close friend Julian House, the graphic designer who helped shape the band's visuals and also formed the sound collage project the Focus Group and later co-founded the Ghost Box label. The band issued a flurry of short releases in 1996, starting with the 7" "Accidentals" (which sampled Joseph Losey's 1967 film Accident) on Wurlitzer Jukebox. Broadcast immediately drew comparisons to Stereolab for their analog synth-driven sound, which continued when they issued a pair of releases on the group's Duophonic Super 45s imprint, the single "Living Room" and the icily atmospheric Book Lovers EP. That October, Broadcast performed its first Peel Session, and returned to the BBC for an Evening Session the following March. The band made its debut on Warp with June 1997's Work and Non-Work, a compilation of all their previous releases. Broadcast started work on their debut album, a process that took over two years and found them self-producing sessions in their own studio after failed attempts with three other producers. The band resurfaced in 1999 with the release of the single "Echo's Answer," then performed their second Peel Session and issued Extended Play in February 2000. That March, Broadcast's long-awaited first full-length The Noise Made by People appeared. Heightening the cinematic sweep of their earlier work, the album earned critical acclaim, topped the U.K. Dance Albums chart, and peaked at 79 on the U.K. Albums chart. The band followed it with that September's Extended Play Two, which featured a different version of the Noise track "Unchanging Window" as well as previously unreleased songs. That year, Stevens and Perkins left the band, with drummer Keith York joining the fold. Broadcast returned in January 2003 with Microtronics Volume 01: Stereo Recorded Music for Links and Bridges, a set of short, abstract electronic instrumentals that was first available at the band's shows and later via mail order. That May, the Pendulum EP arrived, heralding the August release of the group's second album Haha Sound. Recorded with drummer Neil Bullock, the album featured a more minimal, repetitive approach that nevertheless drew on esoteric influences such as the 1970 cult Czechoslovak film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. Haha Sound was another critical success, and reached number four on the U.K. Dance Albums chart; it also became the band's first album to chart in the U.S., reaching number eight on Billboard's Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart. Following the album's release, Felton departed Broadcast to form Seeland with former Plone member Billy Bainbridge, who played keyboards on the Haha Sound tour. In March 2005, Keenan contributed vocals to labelmates Prefuse 73's album Surrounded by Silence, and that September Broadcast issued their third album Tender Buttons. Pared down to the duo of Cargill and Keenan, Broadcast's strikingly sparse sound complemented the album's more intimate songwriting, which was informed by the death of Keenan's father from cancer. Despite the continued critical acclaim, Tender Buttons didn't appear on any album charts; however, its lone single "America's Boy" reached number 139 in the U.K. During the Tender Buttons tour -- which featured drummer Ash Sheehan and Cargill's brother Bill on guitar and keyboards -- Broadcast sold Microtronics Volume 02: Stereo Recorded Music for Links and Bridges, another limited-edition collection of instrumental miniatures. The following August, Warp issued the band's second B-sides and rarities compilation, The Future Crayon. For their next release, Broadcast collaborated with House's Focus Group. Taking inspiration from Hammer Horror, electronic voice phenomenon, and Jeff Keen, they traded samples and field recordings and improvised music and lyrics around them. Appearing in October 2009, Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age presented a spookier, more mystical version of Keenan and Cargill's music. In support of the EP, Broadcast toured with Atlas Sound and issued a tour-only EP, Mother Is the Milky Way. In May 2010, the band performed at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival curated by Matt Groening, and later in the year provided improvised music to short films by House. That December, Keenan contracted the H1N1 virus while on tour in Australia; she died on January 14, 2011, due to complications from pneumonia. That April, Prefuse 73's The Only She Chapters featured one of her last vocal performances. Another project that came to fruition after her death was the music for Peter Strickland's 2012 '70s giallo cinema homage Berberian Sound Studio. Former keyboardist Stevens connected the director to Keenan and Cargill, who based the compositions on the work of film composers Nicola Piovani and Luboš Fišer. Arriving in January 2013, Berberian Sound Studio was praised as a film score and an electronic album, and peaked at number 24 on the U.K. Indie Albums chart and number 32 on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart in the U.S. That year also marked the debut from Children of Alice, the project of Cargill, Stevens, and House that took its name from Keenan's lifelong love of Alice in Wonderland. "The Harbinger of Spring," a 20-minute suite, was released on Devon Folklore Tapes, Vol. 5: Ornithology, a limited-edition split cassette with Mary Arches on Folklore Tapes. In 2015, Warp reissued the band's catalog, and in February 2017 released Children of Alice's self-titled debut album. Later that year, Cargill shared a previously unreleased Broadcast demo, "Tunnel View," on what would have been Keenan's 49th birthday. Another demo, "Where Are You?", appeared in 2020. In March 2022, Warp reissued Mother Is the Milky Way and both volumes of Microtronics, and also released the live collection BBC Maida Vale Sessions.
© Jason Ankeny /TiVo
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