Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 47)
The popularity of muzak use in elevators peaked around the late 50s. As youth culture rose to prominence during the 60s, the smooth sounds of Muzak Holdings vague background music slid in favor of original artist programming. For the life of me, I can’t remember ever hearing muzak in an elevator (which may be the entire point) nor do I suspect can the members of Broadcast. But on The Noise Made by People
they answer an interesting question, what if those muzak filled elevators of the 50s could make their own music? What would it sound like?
The Noise Made by People
wears many of the hallmarks of muzak, lightly shuffled drums, jazzy organs, modest guitar lines, and an overall vibe that strikes as pleasant and serene. But if that were all it was, I wouldn't be writing about it right now. It’s filled with the dry dusty air of an elevator shaft and filled with all kinds of metallic clangs that would fill said air. Roping all this together is the inimitable presence of the late Trish Keenan. Her voice is a candle in murky darkness, as clear as a bell but maintaining a rich air of mystery. Even when she’s absent on the instrumental tracks that tie the album together her vacancy is what makes her return so welcome.
If any one word describes The Noise Made by People
it’s “Patience”. Broadcast are in no rush to get where they’re heading. Melodies unfurl with ease, the full contours of each of Keenan’s vocal lines are felt, each word given plenty of breathing room. James Cargill’s bass lines gently nudge each song forward with a slow gait. Not a lazy one, but an unhurried one. The light military snares of “Unchanging Window” imply not a battle but a parade commemorating a long gone war, one that feels more nostalgic than tragic. A rich piano line buoys “Long Was the Year”, gently ushering one into the album. Keenan’s ghostly vocal on “You Can Fall” twirls through the air like a leaf on the breeze. The effect of The Noise Made by People
is one of early Fall, before the temperatures become unforgiving but the air is markedly crisper.
Despite the overall consistency of The Noise Made by People
, it’s difficult to deny which two songs are the unquestionable standouts. Sequenced back to back, “Come On Let’s Go” and “Echo’s Answer” represent the absolute peak of Broadcast’s powers and will turn a nonbeliever to a cultist in a heartbeat. The former is a psychedelic chase after Keenan’s gently beckoning vocal. “You've nothing left to fear, you won’t be alone” she reassures. Picture the mythical siren’s beckoning your ship to crash into Andy Warhol's Factory and you wouldn't be far off the mark. The latter exists in some mystical desert accessible by no modern map. In it, a few barely there tones pulse around Keenan’s requests to “answer echo’s answer”. A string section shivers behind her, not rising or falling in intensity but tension, creating the compelling counterpoint the song needs to be more than pleasant. Both songs barely hit 3 minutes, both are infinitely replayable.
Broadcast would go on to solidify their songwriting abilities but never again would they create anything quite as rich and beguiling as those twin masterpieces. As a result, The Noise Made by People
feels a bit dominated by those two masterful singles. Still, The Noise Made by People
remains a rich piece of sonic landscape. One that still waits to be discovered and explored.