Broadcast | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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These retrofuturist electro-popsters were long the oddballs in Warp's hyper-wired IDM lineup, but these days they rank alongside Prefuse 73 as one of the label's flagship acts. Tender Buttons, the new album from singer Trish Keenan and programmer and multi-instrumentalist James Cargill, lacks the ambitious sweep of their previous disc, Haha Sound, sometimes recalling instead the spectral techno balladry of their first full-length, The Noise Made by People. It's more cohesive than either, though: Cargill's delicate, dusty contraption of buzzing, fluttering, tubular synth, flat mechanical drumbeats, and sometimes surprisingly naked electric guitar still sounds like it's winding in and out of an empty, darkened ballroom, and despite the ever-present balloon of reverb it moves with more bite and swing than ever before, with pale streamers of blown-out, warbling high-end keyboard and twinkling flecks of processed noise trailing behind. Keenan's super-elegant vocal stylings recall those of modish 60s chanteuses from both sides of the English Channel but have crystallized into something marvelous and strange--she sounds like the android offspring of Lori Burton and Julee Cruise. Like Stereolab, Broadcast has ancestors in Krautrock, and because of that similarity the band has been saddled with charges of copycatting. But the stripped-down and song-driven new record should lay that talk to rest. Keenan and Cargill are clearly doing their own thing on Tender Buttons--spooky, spacey, and pretty, it's without a doubt their best work yet. Gravenhurst and the Like Young open. Fri 11/4, 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $15, 18+.

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