Available on: Black Acre LP
Reading the various interviews Hyetal has given in the build-up to Broadcast, his debut album, will establish two things. Firstly, that it’s a deliberate attempt to not make a dancefloor album, with John Carpenter and 4AD-era shoegaze two of the main influences on the record. Secondly, that the album is, in several ways, an extension of last year’s ‘Phoenix’ single.
‘Phoenix’ is a 140bpm dance track, driven by heavily reverberated riverside drums and street-clearing synth chords, that’s somewhere between Joker’s ‘Purple City’ and the end credits of an ’80s action film. It was written, seemingly almost as a retreat, during a period where Hyetal was unsuccessfully dropping his tempo to try and explore the intricate rhythms of UK Funky, and immediately set out the template for Broadcast. Big drums, big chords, and a lot of moonlight.
I’m not going to beat around the bush: there are times, especially in the album’s first half, where Broadcast seems too reliant on this template. Taken individually, ‘Diamond Islands’, ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Beach Scene’ are all fantastic songs, but placed alongside each other in the first four tracks of the record, you start to wonder if Hyetal’s in danger of becoming a one trick pony. Ironically, it’s when he returns to a more familiar dance template, with the shifty drums, cut-up vocals and r’n’b-referencing breakdown of ‘Searchlight’, that Broadcast starts to become a more diverse, interesting listen, going on to explore the ambient artifacts of Boards of Canada (‘Transmission’) and primal, apocalyptic pop music (‘Black Black Black).
So yes, there is a period where Broadcast seems a little samey, but this is a small slight. Overall, it’s a very solid debut album, which takes an approach that could have seen it fade to beige (I think most would agree that we’re reaching a glut of Oneohtrix-indebted ’80s obsessives right now) and often excels, due in no short part to an incredibly considered use of ambience that binds the album together. Hyetal will doubtless go on to make better records than this, but as starting points for a still-growing artist go, it’s very much worth your time.