Broken Channel (various artists)

Neural Magazine (Italy, 2005)
Monochrom on-line magazine (Germany, 2004)
Phosphor magazine (Germany, 2004)


Neural Magazine (Italy, 2005)

Monochrom on-line magazine (Germany, 2004)

Everyday we give away more freedom and more liberty as a ransom for an imaginary life of safety, freedom and wealth. In the USA they have founded their own ministry only for the purpose of finding ways to diminish privacy and human rights in the name of _war against terror_ (or whatever the codeword of the day is). We are being betrayed on a daily basis. Soon enough, _1984_ will have become a forbidden book, only read by those in power as a manual. Observational technology and safety-guarding are the new power-businesses, netting growth and vast ROIs. This CD/DVD-compilation tries to take surveillance and decode its effect on people and society, tracking down the little crumbs it spreads that will lead to its final obligation. Unfortunately, this is so good musically, that it will only reach a few people in its narrow space. But even preaching to the converted is okay when it is done well and the time is right to shout: _Hey, it_s progress! Doesn_t progress make you feel good inside?_ (Jello Biafra)

Because if there ever was a musical genre whose protagonists tried to remain very much on top of technological and scientifical progress, then it was / is the electronic scene. Filled with geeks, nerds, artists and cyber-cowboys / -girls, using state of the art technology has always been a prerogative for electronic musicians. Why then was it ever so silent in regards to politics, when it could have and should have been the perfect and first part of the spectrum to sit down and think about the inherent logic of its tools and then get up and use them against themselves to bring them to new levels of functioning.

Politics are a good thing as of themselves, even if the transgression into everyday life and practical work proves to be difficult to say the least. Putting politics into electronic music is even harder, though nowadays, with all the mindless rock- and pop-bands and the girls-beach-fun-punkbands, electronic artists seem to be one of the last parts of musicians still standing up for something now and then, and there are a lot of issues worth opening up your mouth for and shaking your fist for. (And I_d be very unhappy if that field was left to bands that make me puke like Coldplay or, worst of them all, U2.) Apart from arguing that producing a subcultural alternative to actual society and thereby proving that different forms of working together are possible, electronic music as a hard time of conveying political messages. This is not only because of its obvious and regular lack of vocals but also because a lot of that scene has drifted into a worldless twilight zone of otherworldly aesthetics, meta-lifes and self-satisfactory numbness _ both the protagonists and the listeners. Therefore it is good to see a compilation filled with experimental electronic music that also has a meaning.[1]

Broken Channel_ has chosen the theme of surveillance and the loss of privacy as its core issue. An interesting thing and ever since the first dramatic public appearances of Scanner also one deeply inherent into the electronic scene. Moreover, both the electronic music scene as well as surveillance for sake of safety have their focus on urban centers, lively streets and places, late night and seedy characters _ but of course from different angles.

The music is mostly minimal techno and straight forward lush electronica, but almost every track uses some field recordings, vocal samples and other bitparts that add an atmosphere of noise, dissent and energy to the music. The mixture of synthetic and organic works very well. Everyone knows where the chants of _bring down the wall_ on Ultra Red_s first tracks comes from, but it is good to hear them again. You_ll also get rioters and organisers of demonstrations talk into microphones _live_ while things are still happening. (The frozen frame of history happening right now has even further aesthetic and artistic implications, that would lead me to far away to get into them now.) Kampuchea uses sounds from an immigration office to construct a soundtrack with. Kaffe Matthews is as consequent in being experimental as always, using sounds from CCTV.

There is an enclosed DVD with various visuals and experimental movies about the same issue. I_ll admit that _Imperial Beach_, a video-filmed study of a part of the Mexican / USA-border, bugged me out big time. After seeing the same shot over and over again for the umpteenth time, I skipped. The other entries were more varied, more experimental and more visually challenging. Especially _Aprotic_ by Battery Operated is as close to a leftist mindwash as you_ll get, comprising so much visual information into cheap digital video-trickery as is possible. And still fun to watch.

Phosphor magazine (Germany, 2004)

The DVD is quite diverse with four very different treatments of the contemporary experience of surveillance. Ultra Red offer us Imperial Beach, stunning images of the protest at Quebec and on the USA/Mexico border tracing out the metal fence boundary that stretches from the sea across the land. People play on the beach at either side while border police survey the activities. The images are fresh and informative and the music adds a very particular revolutionary feel to it.

Aprotic is the contribution from Battery Operated + Made is of a more artistic nature and explores the control spaces of surveillance and how these can create new architectures and environments. Huge lengths of pipelines are followed throughout a clinically white building. Nice imagery and music work well together and the technical drawings half way through add complexity. Coldcut + Outerbongolia give us a montage of police surveillance video images in Thee I is our mirror v 0.5. The music is more song style than the others with vocal and guitar material driving the video piece. Layers of images provide a lot of information with the theme being We know you are watching. The last video piece Vigilare comes from Riz Maslen + Kaffe Matthews and focuses on the mute medium of CCTV. Images of deserted rooms sync well with the discordant sound, the music enhancing the feeling of the nothingness and emptiness viewed from the CCTV camera. The CD starts with two tracks by Ultra Red the first of which, A20.1 bring down the wall, continues their protesters theme. Heavy addictive beats are accompanied by spoken reports and chants of protesters that were used as part of the video piece also. Quite an uplifting feel to their music. Their second track also focusing on recordings from protests surrounded by beats and some samples of old records. Battery Operated + Made give us four beat driven tracks working with concrete, machinery sounds. Each track starts off slowly with interesting sound combinations before heading into beats and more synthetic sounds.

It would be nice to hear extended versions of the introduction portion of the tracks before the beats kick in. The fourth track (track 06) uses interesting vocal samples. Hampuchea is up next with Non-EU. This is quite concrete in nature using samples of found sound environments. At times spooky and surreal until an unexpected beat comes in and takes the track to a whole new place. The beat periods come and go and in between we get a view into another environment and atmosphere. Interesting combination. Kaffe Matthews finishes off the CD with Vigilare, the music that accompanied the video piece. Slow moving and hauntingly empty, she creates an atmosphere out of sine tones and crackling beats. Simple and effective patterns that mess with your ears. All in all this CD/DVD is a treat for the ears and eyes with incredible artwork and photographs by Josee Dubeau to wrap it up nicely.


Andrew Coleman:
Tony Alva's Hair
Broken Channel