Broadcast: Future Crayon

Had Broadcast (or Warp) resisted the completist urge, Future Crayon, the group's 18-song collection of B-sides and rarities, could have been a near-perfect companion to its other full-lengths. But by including as many instrumentals as vocal songs, the disc satisfies less. Put simply: Broadcast's strongest, if not defining, asset is Trish Keenan's note-perfect voice, and omitting it from half of the album seems wrongheaded (even if the group's marriage of ‘60s B-movie noir and rough-edged guitar can be distinctive); analogically, contemplate how much Everything But The Girl and Cocteau Twins would suffer minus the presence of Tracey Thorn and Elizabeth Fraser.

Yes, Future Crayon does perform a valuable service in collecting material that originally appeared on now out-of-print singles, EPs (Echo's Answer, Extended Play One, Extended Play Two, Pendulum), and compilations (a 2001 All Tomorrow's Parties release, the 1998's We Are Reasonable People). And, needless to say, vocal cuts like “Illumination,” “Still Feels Like Tears” and “Small Song IV” are splendid, with Keenan's singing bolstered by haunting hooks and its delicate tone offset by aggressive instrumental playing; a sparsely arranged setting like “Distant Call” allows the entrancing purity of her voice to stand out even more. Breaking up the vocal tracks with an instrumental or two would have been a wiser strategy than including so many, especially when the presence of less enthralling ones (“Test Area,” “A Man for Atlantis”) makes the album feel bloated. Had “Chord Simple” and “Belly Dance” been retained and the others omitted, Future Crayon would have checked in at a sleek 43 minutes, rather than the overlong 70 it is at present.

August 2006