(Possibly) the final record by Broadcast featuring the late Trish Keenan, this is less of a proper follow-up to ...Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age than it is a sparse collection of novelties and scraps assembled for the movie it was scoring. Berberian Sound Studio does tend to follow faithfully in the same path that Broadcast's previous records set out for them, namely the increasingly ambient moods which pulse throughout, but I can't help but feel longing for what could have been.
Amidst the detritus, there lies scarce moments of composed music on Berberian Sound Studio: percussion and organ stabs at the beginning and middle, on the “Equestrian” tracks; brief, catchy and almost immediately over. Likewise, on “The Sacred Marriage,” a simple melody is broken up by chimes ringing out. Apart from those songs—similar to “The Be Colony” from Witch Cults—this album is a funeral dirge dominated by somber drones and bursts of sampled noise. The music is interred in its subject matter; I have admittedly not seen the film that this is soundtracking, but it's clear from the scattershot organization of these songs that they thrive on context within the film, and outside of it there is little to latch onto.
Although I can find plenty of pleasant moments to enjoy—brusque synths, extracted audio bits and distant conversations, BBC Radiophonic Workshop homages, James Cargill's adept production—I can't really name any “songs” to highlight. Obviously it's a soundtrack, so some repeating motifs and themes are expected, but a large portion of the attention given to this comes from Trish Keenan's death, and the subsequent affirmation that this is one of her “final recordings,” which means it is getting dressed up as if it were a fully realized album. In actuality, there's barely any of Keenan's presence to be felt here. Where her voice appears, it's all vowels, and it goes by so fast that it can be easily missed without paying attention.
As an exploration of haunting sounds and horror cliché turned on its head, this album is a quirky but honored effort which takes every measure to assure verisimilitude to the films which inspired it. But Broadcast were a band splintered apart by tragedy in the peak of creativity, and this doesn't do them justice as a final release. Hopefully something more complete is in the works that will serve as a proper send off.
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