Release Date: Feb 24, 2017
Record label: Warp
For those attuned to Broadcast and the Focus Group's wavelength, the 2009 collaborative album Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age was a hallowed union. Throughout the 2000s, Broadcast had reimagined psych-rock in a way that mirrored the Focus Group's adventures in library music and musique concrète--both artists' warped nostalgia and movie-music mania dealt in temporal freefall, with spectral production that exhumed ghosts from radio static. On Witch Cults, these hauntological peas in a pod simultaneously peaked: In Trish Keenan's daydream deadpan, the Focus Group's Julian House found an anchor for his abstractions, while Broadcast's oneiric detail flourished anew, unmoored once and for all from rock's retro swing.
The four track album - masterminded by James Cargill, formerly of Broadcast - is a journey into experimental worlds with off kilter noise, odd samples and various blips and bleeps that combine with real world sound fragments in short, 30 second mini-motifs strung together for what seems like an eternity. At least, that's the case with the epic, 20-minute opener "The Harbinger Spring", which starts with the clamor of bells and whistles but ends with a woman singing while seemingly underwater. The experience makes one ponder the very structure of reality, given the seemingly chaotic approach to musical composition.
At first glance, the debut album from Children of Alice seems a daunting endeavor. Heaviness hangs over the project as the group’s name is a tribute to the late Trish Keenan, who formed one-half of the duo Broadcast along with James Cargill until her death in 2011. Keenan had a special affection for Alice in Wonderland and drew inspiration from Jonathan Miller’s 1966 television adaptation in particular.
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.
It's difficult to explore the music of Children of Alice without immediately thinking about Broadcast, and not because it occupies a similarly liminal space where the esoteric side of English folk meets the eerie electronics of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Children of Alice is, after all, a new(ish) project by Broadcast's James Cargill and its very name stands as a tribute to the group's late, lamented singer Trish Keenan, whose favourite book was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. This debut album is arguably Cargill's most significant work since the soundtrack to Peter Strickland's giallo-inspired cult movie Berberian Sound Studio which served as something of an epitaph for Keenan and featured her last vocal contributions.