Six years after singer Trish Keenan's tragic passing, Broadcast feel more relevant than ever. They were rarely shouted about at the time (indeed, they were initially wrongly dismissed as Stereolab knock-offs), but their influence has been subtle and far-reaching, impacting everyone from collaborators like Deerhunter and Prefuse 73 to the entire hauntology scene. Today there are any number of excellent bands - Tara King Th., Death And Vanilla, Vanishing Twin et al - who proudly sound "a bit Broadcasty", with jazzy drums, vintage synths, a dash of pagan weirdness and, no doubt, extensive library music collections back home.
Children Of Alice is a successor band of sorts. Named in homage to Trish (who loved Alice In Wonderland, especially Jonathan Miller's version), it's a group made up of Broadcast members James Cargill and Roj Stevens, along with frequent collaborator Julian House. Their debut is rooted in the same eclectic and archaic influences that made following that band such an education, but the form is different. There are no equivalents of ‘Pendulum' or 'Come On Let's Go' here, no pop and no vocals (unless you count some orgasmic gasping). Instead, these four long-ish tracks more strongly recall House's solo work as The Focus Group, or some of the oddities unearthed by the Toys & Techniques blog. All four tracks have been released before on compilations by the Folklore Tapes micro-label, though they will be new to most and deserve this wider release.
Opener 'The Harbinger Of Spring' is a collage of samples, synths and found sounds that moves through many different sections over 19 minutes and the entire first side of the vinyl. Alternately bucolic and uncanny, soothing and jarring, it's more meditative than The Focus Group's occasionally skittish LPs, with delicate swirls of keyboard unfurling around a discordant backdrop. An obvious comparison is the Broadcast and Focus Group album, 'Witch Cults Of The Radio Age', but this goes even further out than that, bringing to mind Ruth White's 1969 Luciferian electronic opus, 'Flowers Of Evil'.
While 'Rite Of The Maypole' is sweetly shimmering, 'Invocation Of A Midsummer Reverie' takes a more sinister route; all shamanic drums, wordless sighs and what sounds like the clattering of swords. The spectre of horror lingers over the album. One of the first sounds we hear on the record is a sample from the little-seen but excellent Spanish chiller Who Can Kill A Child? and 'Reverie' evokes the likes of Witchfinder General and, inevitably, The Wicker Man.
This is vaporous and elusive music – no more so than on final track 'The Liminal Space' which, at times, sounds barely there, and initially recalls one of Leland Kirby's tracks as The Caretaker before evolving into a carousel of disorientating electronic sound. It's a surprising end to a strange, lovely and at times genuinely unnerving album that feels like a deep-dive into the subconscious of these hauntology pioneers.
Words: Will Salmon
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