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Broadcast Findings and Cultural Constellations: Wanderings 25/26

A while ago in a second-hand bookshop I came across a slightly battered and faded copy of display copy only,: a book of Intro work. Published in 2001 it is a collection of design work done by Intro, the design company which Julian House of Ghost Box Records is a partner and creative director of.

The book features some of his early design work for Broadcast and the band are discussed in John O’Reilly’s introduction, where he talks about how some of the record sleeves for Barry Adamson, Luke Slater and Broadcast  “take on the collective mythology of cinema”.

Below is the text in his introduction where O’Reilly writes about Broadcast, which stuck in my head somewhat, in particular the part about their music being “a jagged angular take on rollneck-sweater 1960s pop”, which seemed like a very evocative and concise summing up of early(ish) Broadcast’s Alphaville-esque pop world:

“The most striking allusion to the cinematic medium is Broadcast’s The Noise Made by People. The sleeve becomes the title sequence of a movie as the chunky, brutalist Saul Bass-like typography solidifies the sleeve image. Members of the band are pictured inside the letters – characters of the Broadcast ‘film’. The Noise Made by People is a jagged angular take on rollneck-sweater 1960s pop. When you open the CD, the cracked concrete effect of the cover materializes as the sleeve and cover separate. The lyrics and images for the 12 tracks are on three separate cards, each resembling a detail from a film poster… The disconnectedness of the inner sleeve, its incompleteness, the fact it’s not quite whole, isn’t a designer’s whim. It is directly linked to the dynamic of melancholy that is at the heart of Broadcast’s music. Musically, Broadcast’s sad tone inhabits the flat vocals of Trish Keenan, the minor key in which the songs are composed and the restless sonic detours, which promise to take you somewhere before drifting away. This melancholy is pictured on the sleeve itself, in the images of the band in the lettering, where each cropped facial shot captures them in a private moment of reflection or gazing into the distance, looking for some promise of completion that will never arrive.”

The artwork from The Noise Made by People is later reproduced in the book across six pages. display copy only is now long out of print but can still be found used online at prices that seem to vary from decidedly pocket-money friendly to not expensive but not cheap either.

As I’ve discussed before one of Broadcast’s final releases, the rare and hard to find EP / mini-album Mother is the Milky Way, pointed to a fascinating future for them in the way it melded and interwove the personal, avant-garde and exploratory tendencies, pastoralism and pop sensibilities in a hypnagoic dream of “milling around the village”.

Broadcast were a fine example of pop’s tendency to find inspiration and reference points via all kinds of cultural avenues and particularly in their interviews they often laid a trail of cultural breadcrumbs that could lead to all kinds of fascinating finds:

“[In an interview with Broadcast for issue 308 of Wire magazine] Joseph Stannard describes Broadcast’s songs as often resembling memories, of being similar to distant, fuzzy impressions of an emotion, time or place while Trish Keenan describes such things as being formed from imaginary time travel: a way of creating music where time and space dissolve to create shadowy, faint impressions through clouded lenses… It is the underpinning of their work by such faint, clouded impressions that is part of what is so intriguing about Broadcast; associated interviews, videos and imagery do not seem to be purely merely another aspect of standard promotional exercises but rather to belong to an overall process of multi-layered cultural exploration and inquiring, a tumbling and delving through the looking-glass and sometimes hidden sides of things… Mark Fisher in his 2014 book Ghost of my Life talks about how it is the culture that surrounds and constellates around music that has been as important as the music itself in conjuring seductively unfamiliar worlds, that during the 20th century these gatherings of culture acted as a probe for such explorations and alternatives to existing ways of living and thinking… Broadcast are a fine, brightly shining example of such constellations and constellators and to this day continue to act as a guide to such explorations and alternative pathways of culture.” (Quoted from A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields.)

Without realising, in recent years I seem to have amassed quite a few books published between 2008-2011 that collect record cover art and packaging. They tend to collect work from independent and niche releases and almost solely concentrate on CDs, and some of the packaging designs are intriguingly complex and lavish. In a more recently published book on record sleeve art that I looked at a lot of the releases were on vinyl and, while the design work was interesting, the packaging was fairly uniform. This was presumedly in part because the larger size of vinyl sleeves and overall falling sales of music on physical media means that producing custom vinyl sleeves is prohibitively costly.

Viewed now the books seem like something of a time capsule snapshot of a fading era in the 2000s when, although CD sales had fallen by 60% or more since their peak in 2000 they were still quite high, and I assume therefore they were still able to more easily support bespoke packaging design. Also the books are a snapshot of the period before the current upsurge in vinyl sales and an accompanying move of much of niche music back onto vinyl only releases.

Anyways, back to Broadcast. It’s always a treat to come across some of their cover art in one of these books. Above are the covers to Ha Ha Sound and Pendulum in 1,000 Supreme CD Designs.

In fact it’s a treat to come across Broadcast in unexpected places anywhere really. Above is a copy of their early(ish) single Come On Let’s Go that I found recently(ish) in a charity shop.

It seems quite rare nowadays that I come across CDs that catch my eye in charity shops, and it’s almost as if CD production stopped around 2003 as most of the CDs I do find tend to be dated no later than that. Perhaps a lot of the more niche CDs are now sold online either via individuals and small businesses on Discogs and/or the large-scale mega listers of used CDs, books and DVDs elsewhere online.

Below is a gathering and revisiting of some other Broadcast book, magazine etc appearances that I’ve written about before at A Year In The Country:

Broadcast in the somewhat hauntological issue 32 of Shindig! magazine, which also featured articles on Berberian Sound Studio, giallo cinema, synth duo Emerald Web, the Children’s Film Foundation and Ghost Box Records. The original printing is sold out but it is now available to buy again in a bespoke printed format at the Shindig! website

The aforementioned interview with Broadcast by Joseph’s Stannard in issue 308 of Wire magazine and its unedited transcript on the magazine’s website have been something of a recurring reference point for A Year In The Country in its interweaving of otherly pastoral and hauntological-esque reference points and a sense of creating or stepping into alternate or parallel personal and cultural worlds and reality:

“I like those moments in British films like The Wicker Man and The Witches, when you’re not quite sure if the people of the village know all about the odd occurrences or not but an accidental citing or overheard conversation reveals that they are as much apart of the bizarre set up as the suspicious and aloof owner of the stately home… I’m not interested in the bubble poster trip, ‘remember Woodstock’ idea of the sixties. What carries over for me is the idea of psychedelia as a door through to another way of thinking about sound and song. Not a world only reachable by hallucinogens but obtainable by questioning what we think is real and right, by challenging the conventions of form and temper. Bands like The United States Of America, White Noise, A To Austr and a recently discovered album for me, The Mesmerizing Eye, all use audio collage, clashes of sound that work more in the way the mind works, the way life works, extreme juxtapositions of memories and heavy traffic noise say, or reading emails and wasps coming through the window. But as well, I feel that in my own small way I am part of that psych band continuum, but in a make-believe reality stemmed off to exist outside of the canon.” (Trish Keenan quoted from the unedited transcript.)

The Music Made by People was also featured in the 2002 book Sampler 2: Art, Pop and Contemporary Music Graphics, which was written and designed by Intro:

“The work contained [in the book] tends to veer towards designs to accompany abstract(ish) electronica and is often kind of lovely, slightly arch, slightly distant, deeply philosophic” (Quoted from an earlier post at A Year In The Country.)

Above are examples of Broadcast wandering overseas and on the covers of Mucchio and Rockerilla magazines and these were published at a time when Broadcast were still being connected with and promoted by indie music orientated press.

Particularly in the image of Broadcast on the cover of Rockerilla there is a sense of channeling some slightly undefined past decade’s vision of the future…

… talking of which and the above mentioned “rollneck-sweater 1960s pop” and Alphaville-esque – above is a promotional photograph for the band.




Elsewhere at A Year In The Country: 


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