From Pitchfork (8.2):
The little-known 1970 Czech vampire film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is a gorgeous blend of fairytale and horror show, a mix of surrealism, magical realism, and poetic visuals that explores the fears, desires, and sexual awakening of a young girl. That film-- which lends part of its title to Broadcast's "Valerie"-- is also a fitting inspiration for the Birmingham, England band's second full-length album, Haha Sound, which walks a rope between awe and dread, human longing and sonic unrest.
Haha Sound is a sharp turn from Broadcast's debut full-length, The Noise Made by People, and their early singles (collected on 1997's Work and Non-Work). As their album titles indicate, Broadcast are steeped in the exploration of the detail and nuance of "noise" and "sounds." On The Noise Made by People, the band created seamless, languid, soothing dreamscapes; here they've opted for a more cluttered, percussive rattle. As she has in the past, vocalist Trish Keenan still seems as if she's singing lullabies, though the rest of the group is more intent on inflicting nightmares. Keenan's opening confession and request, "I am gray/ Still on the page/ Colour me in," is heeded over the course of the record by her bandmates as her detached vocals and fragile melodies are accompanied by a carnival of vintage electronics and sometimes-cacophonous sheets of polyrhythms.
Broadcast again retain their affection for charity shop sounds here, but the past they now explore is the mythical ideal of our millennial future as popularized in the 1950s by post-war consumerism-- a wide-eyed vision that found province in science fiction films, mid-century modern furniture, and the spectral pop produced by outer-space abstractionists like Joe Meek and Phil Spector. The ghost of Meek, in particular, is echoed most clearly on "Man Is Not a Bird", "Minim", and a trio of short instrumentals, which may be slightly off-putting to long-time listeners accustomed to Broadcast's sultry, soothing sounds. Fortunately, however, Haha Sound is compelling right from the word go, thanks to the leftfield Big Top melody of "Colour Me In"-- perhaps the band's most overt homage to their unofficial patron saints, 60s psych-pop group The United States of America-- and the propulsive "Pendulum".
A pop/rock band that has been affiliated with Drag City, Tommy Boy, and Warp, Broadcast seem comfortable as outsiders searching for their own unique aesthetic. On "The Little Bell", Keenan claims: "Deep inside my wooden clock, there is a tick but not a tock/ Although into a room it chimes/ It only tells me half the time." She could have easily been talking about Broadcast's approach to creating off-kilter beauty. On Haha Sound, Broadcast take the infectious tick of pop and add it to the head-music tock of often non-pop genres (European art house soundtracks, exotica, incidental music, Ohm-style electronic pioneers). The result is an enveloping, mysterious record that marries the idealism of "the future of tomorrow today" to the stark reality of the post-millennial present and finds beauty and fascination in the tussle between melody and rhythm.