Sunday, 16 January 2011

Trish Keenan

I still can’t believe it. What devastating news, particularly for those closest to her. Broadcast have been that special band for me for years, ever since I heard The Book Lovers back in the mid 90s. How could I not love a song with that title, which ushered you ‘down the aisles/Along the titles where you run your eyes’. Imparting such a sense of mystery and sensuality to browsing and reading points to the heart of the band’s appeal. Such a joy in learning, in making connections between things, was one of the things I loved about Trish, too. She was from an ordinary background, but followed her intellectual instincts and discovered for herself a broad cultural universe, which encompassed the spectrum from the popular to the abstruse and avant-garde. Such an autodidactic gathering of influences, free from an assumed canon of the great and worthy which tends to be absorbed within certain social and educational backgrounds, meant that she was genuinely enthusiastic about her discoveries. As a result, the music can encompass experimental elements, both in terms of sound and lyrical content, without sounding remotely pretentious.

I picked up many recommendations from reading and listening to interviews with Trish and James. Her enthusiasms ranged from Gertrude Stein and automatic writing, through the music of The United States of America and the Radiophonic Workshop, to the Czech film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (she provided some sleeve notes to the Finders Keepers release of the soundtrack), Jonathan Miller's 60s tv Alice in Wonderland, with its languorous Ravi Shankar score, and the 70s children’s tv fantasy Sky. The mixes which she and James (and Julian House) provided on the website introduced me to some wonderful things, including Carl Orff’s Musica Poetica, Tom Dissevelt’s poppy 60s electronica and Ennio Morricone’s early soundtracks, including the sublime Invention for John. Such a profusion of ideas, and the evident delight taken in them, made for music which was intellectual but always alive. Trish had taken to talking about psychedelic experiences resulting from an intense response to sound rather than from the ingestion of drugs. A more genuinely rebellious approach of concentrated engagement than the usual tired excesses of rock’s macho self-mythologising, and one which reflected her interest in a pop music centred around a more female perspective (for which she created her benign ‘white witch’ for recent performances). Her vocal style was restrained, with a distanced formality, exuding a coolly seductive quality. It sounded at times as if she was half singing to herself. Many of the melodies had the feel of lullabies, or of songs sung whilst engaged in other activities. I can imagine her replacing Sandy Denny on the cover of The North Star Grassmen and the Ravens, gently crooning whilst sorting out seeds into their drawers for next year’s planting.

The recording I heard of the December concert in Australia sounded so relaxed. The music from this latest incarnation of the band, just Trish and James, sounded like it had reached its ideal form, completely natural and poised for the progression to new forms and styles. Their interest in soundtracks was to have borne fruit in their proposed collaboration with Peter Strickland on his follow up to Katalin Varga. They were to have played Animal Collective’s ATP festival and, who knows, release the new LP which had been so long in the offing. So much to look forward to. Broadcast, and Trish, have been at the centre of my musical universe for so long now, and they’ll leave a great void. It will be a while before I can bring myself to listen to the music again, but it will be a lasting legacy which I will always treasure. I shall miss her greatly.


Lucy Fur Leaps said...

Thanks- this is beautifully written and does justice to her. I feel the same.

Jez Winship said...

There's a really nice tribute from Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley here:

Jake said...

wonderful tribute. i too, still am in shock. i agree about Broadcast finding themselves within the last couple of releases. its such a shame we couldn't hear where they were going.

i'm working on a broadcast video archive:

s said...


The Mystery Machine said...

found this on one of my recent peregrinations round the net. trish and broadcast have meant as much to me as they have to you- finding so many of the same influences in her music as i had in my life, and i felt as if i were coming home to something. she continues to be an influence on me and she is certainly the most important musical female for me in the past 25 years. she definitely spoke to something in my own spirit which resonated with a certain type of dread- and only through trish did i discover the name for that feeling- hauntology. discovering broadcast and the focus group sharpened my own visual and musical esthetic HUGELY. and my greatest sadness is that they had reached a new high with their work- "broadcast and the focus group investigate the witch cults of the radio age" is like sargeant pepper in terms of the leap in originality and weirdness that happened there. such a great influence, that will grow with time.