Autobiographical Order No. 92: Broadcast – haha Sound

On Friday, I gave myself a brief break from Autobiographical Order in order to give a quarterly report of albums I’ve listened to so far this year. It’s shaping up to be a strong year, and I tend to feel that way every year. No music is more exciting than new music — discovery brings me a genuine thrill.

But one of the other reasons I wanted to take a break is because I’ve been pretty overloaded with other writing projects, and I wanted to make sure I had a clean slate before tackling Broadcast’s haha Sound. It’s hard to articulate the importance of this album to me, and over the years, it’s only grown in my estimation. I first started listening to Broadcast when I was in high school, after members of Stereolab said they were one of their favorite new bands. Now, I should probably also note that in high school, I was a massive Stereolab fan. I still have a fondness for many of Stereolab’s albums, but after a while, a lot of their albums began to follow a similar pattern. But Broadcast kept making challenging work, up until their sad end when frontwoman Trish Keenan died in 2011.

Haha Sound, the group’s second album (or third if you count the singles compilation Work and Non-Work), is easily their best album, a kaleidoscopic mixture of psychedelia, krautrock, pop, electronic, noise, post-punk and other sounds swirling into one unique and gorgeous blend. It’s simply mesmerizing, and just about everything is a highlight. There’s the distorted pulse of “Pendulum,” the gorgeous pop of “Before We Begin,” the hypnotic psych of “Man is Not a Bird,” and the fluttery dream pop of “Winter Now.”

When I bought the album on CD, it was easy to find — $15 or so at Off the Record in Hillcrest, as I recall. And a few weeks later (maybe months, can’t say for sure) they played a fantastic show at The Casbah. But the more I listened to the album, the more I discovered the various subtleties of it, and the many different rabbit holes you could get lost in. And so it was settled: I had to find it on vinyl.

That was easier said than done. When Warp Records first released the LP, it pressed only about 1,000 copies, and by 2008 there weren’t that many left that anyone was actually willing to part with. So, I searched far and wide across the vast expanses of the Internet, eventually stumbling upon an Amazon marketplace vendor who listed it. I bought it, got my hopes up and realized it was mislabeled. They sent me a CD. I returned it, and they said they didn’t actually have any copies on vinyl, which was a major bummer. So I tried again, eventually finding a shop in the UK that had a copy, and the personable owner of the store said something along the lines of “You should probably buy this now, because otherwise I’m going to take it home.” $35 and about two weeks later, and I finally had this incredible sounding work on vinyl, and it’s one of the most cherished items I have.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized this album might actually have gone up in value. And it most certainly has. On Discogs, the lowest priced copy (very good condition) goes for $75. The highest (mint) is $275. I ended up with a bargain, though I might have weighed paying more, just because the band is one that I hold in higher esteem than most others, and their music was a special something to be shared with select other people. As I wrote in a recent feature on their 2000 album The Noise Made By People, “It felt like being part of a secret club; if someone knew and loved Broadcast, I knew I could trust them.”

The album has since been reissued, and you can get it for about $22, but the price really doesn’t matter to me. It’s just an amazing album, and everyone should listen to it at least once.

(Note: I did buy other reissued Broadcast albums which you’ll read about, oh, I dunno, a year from now?)

Rating: 10.0

Sound Quality: Great

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