A Journal Of The Dark Arts
BROADCAST – Berberian Sound Studio (Warp, 2013)
Rating: 4/5 Screaming Skulls
As you may or not be aware, i’ve been writing a series of articles for the newly resurrected Amazing Stories blog, focusing on Horror. This assignment has found me swimming in blood & gore; spending my days walking down endless dimly-lit corridors, anonymous doors lining the hall, faint gibbering and chewing sounds emanating from behind oak and steel.
As usual, i do not do things half-assed. My every waking thought has been trained upon how to write new and interesting articles on the Horror genre, what it means to be a horror fanatic, wondering why we get so obsessed with the darkness. I have been peering through the scanner darkly, at the shadow of the human soul, our obsession with sex, death, and the afterlife. This assignment is transfiguring me into an honorary Scorpio – dark and obsessive, haunted.
The limits of the article format has propelled me into finally putting up some new content, here at Forestpunk. In each of my articles, i focus on maybe 5 excellent entries into a given genre, but there is way too much to be contained in 2000 words. I will be hosting the overflow here.
My working theory, at the moment, is the best way to learn a genre is by full immersion. I would very much love to be an authority on horror in film, music and print, but i have no formal training, desperately trying to keep up with the last 100 years of critical theory and post-modern sociology, squeezing as many disparate elements as i can into a given album or movie review. But there is too much, too much – every hyperlink leads into its own formal school of logic, and all of a sudden, i feel like i have to be an authority on psychology, economics, philosophy, before i even begin to type.
But what purpose, another master? Another expert? The masses will always start with Pitchfork, for all their reviewing needs, and every independent venture is a distorted reflection of that inaugural viewpoint. What else can be said? I feel like, by surrounding one’s self with archaic books and film, by walking around with demented sounds on yr headphones, is to invite the aesthetic into yr life, to LIVE IT, to see what it really is, what it can become, and how it can effect yr life.
The HORRORSCORE series will be looking at individual soundtracks from horror films, or the music that has been influenced by its tropes. Transform yr sunny Friday afternoon into a blood soaked Giallo fest, if you dare. Live in fog and shadow, turn away from the harsh light of reason and logic.
Berberian Sound Studios is the most recent offering from Broadcast, their first since 2009’s Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age with fellow sonic archivalists The Focus Group, and the untimely passing of their chanteuse Trish Keenan (r.i.p.). These recordings are the last made while she was still alive, which makes it reason enough to seek it out. But the good news is, that apart from the historical relevance, or even the high profile of Broadcast in general, this music stands up. It has an authentic aura about it, it could be the score from a demented old William Castle film, or a psychotropic adaptation of an M. R. James story.
Berberian Sound Studios is a film about a meek sound designer, who normally works on nature documentaries, but gets roped into scoring a Giallo film, The Equestrian Vortex. The gothic atmosphere, abusing vegetables to create traumatic foley FX, day in day out, finally take its toll on the young master’s mind, driving him to madness. I haven’t seen the film yet, but Broadcast’s score is a compelling lure, and i’ll check it out as soon as i can dig my talons into a copy.
Their music works on its own, however, which is always the primary challenge of film music. When it works, it conjures all manner of subjective interior movies, which is part of the charm of film music. Visuals tell you exactly what to think, acting as an agent of the LIGHT, dispelling darkness and doubt. They are inherently comforting, movies, even if they are showing you disturbing things. Music and Literature, however, are internal affairs, shadowy and introverted. Everybody sees different things; its a kind of vision quest. BBS conjures images of Italian villas, aging witches, vile dismemberment and acts of violence. A lot of this music is downright SCARY! Bloodcurdling screams rising out of the abyss, slamming into yr stereo field like a sledgehammer, shocking you awake. Put this one on, while whittling away the hours of darkness with yr own dark and decadent research. You will be looking over yr shoulder, checking beyond the door before stepping out into the unknown.
Its not all horrorshow, however. A lot of it is lovely and sweet, with dearly departed Trish Keenan’s voice subduing us, siren-like, one last time. Its kind of melancholy, to remember how intensely talented and interesting she was, and what a raw deal it is that she was taken from us so early. Some wounds stay fresh and open for a LONG time, and no amount of comforting axioms quiet their sting.
Berberian Sound Studios clocks in at a monumental 39 tracks, with most of them being incidental music, less than a minute long. These vignettes are destined for macabre mixtapes and yr own haunted house scores, to frighten neighborhood children for years to come. Broadcast, being the prime hauntologists that they are, have expertly aged these recordings, sounding frighteningly similar Goblin’s ’70s output, or one of M. R. James’ Edwardian Ghost Stories For Christmas.
You will hear electric harpsichord, glossolalia, the chiming of the bells, sickening slurping and sawing sounds, female vocals swathed in reverb and echo, oboes, flutes, and harps. It comes off like Lubos Fiser’s Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders soundtrack, updated for the post-dubstep age. Clean and murky, at the same time; Broadcast stand at the threshold, timeless and timely, simultaneously.
I hope hope hope that this is not the last that we hear from this ilk, but i’m sure that the remaining members will continue to surprise and delight, with insightful art, while they are still walking in the sun.
Get it on Amazon! Berberian Sound Studio
Follow ’em on FB: Broadcast
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