Public Service Broadcasting

The Race For Space

Written by: LF on 28/02/2015 20:18:23

Public Service Broadcasting consists of two guys from London who play conceptual, electronically founded indie rock. In addition to various samples and electronic instruments, they make use of drums, piano, guitars and various other stringed instruments to create very diverse expressions across their recordings. Their mission is summed up shortly and precisely in the title of their debut album: "Inform – Educate – Entertain". To achieve these goals they take samples from old public information films, archive footage, and propaganda material to "teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future" as they so poetically put it.

Whereas their debut told various stories that were not necessarily related, the historical subject matter of their newest and second full-length deals with one specific subject, namely the American and Soviet space race that took place between 1957 and 1972, as is evident from the album's title. To fit the various themes of this story, PSB have made a diverse record that is very atmospheric and immersive throughout, somewhat akin to a movie soundtrack that really wants you to notice it, with the songs moving through various styles, some being very ambient and post-rock in their nature while others are more straightforward electronica-infused rock tunes.

In telling the story of the space race, an enormous subject in itself, PSB get around many facets. The huge ambition of the entire project is presented with a speech JFK made in 1964 which is used in the title track. With an angelic choir as his background, he sets the stage for the rest of the album: "Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, "Because it is there." / Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. / And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked."

Evidently, this is a record that deals with an important and heavy subject but while some songs have a very serious weight in them, as in the disastrous white noise of "Fire In the Cockpit" or the ambient, unnerving wait of "The Other Side", others like the more upbeat, funky and festive "Gagarin" or the synth-heavy, forward-striving "Go!" are more lighthearted and fun in their approach. One of the most thrilling things about PSB and their work is that they merge the words of history so well with their choice of instruments. They have an attention to musical qualities in everything that is enchanting to witness in their songs. The sounds of the world and the very words of the archive material become musical components in the way they are used rhythmically, for instance in the beeping satellite sounds of the appropriately circling "Sputnik", the noise of "Fire In The Cockpit" or the rhythmic qualities of cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin's name in album highlight "Gagarin".

The riffs and soundscapes themselves are not exactly new or inventive, but PSB are extremely adept at creating immersive and emotional narratives in their combinations of instruments and words. While you might consider the entire idea behind PSB as kind of nerdy, the songs that they make succeed in being informative, danceable, immersive, quirky and fun, all at the same time, and "The Race For Space" is bound to end up as one of my favorite releases of 2015.


Download: Go!, Gagarin, E.V.A., The Other Side
For The Fans Of: The Electric Soft Parade, British Sea Power, Dutch Uncles, Tall Ships

Release date 23.02.2015
Test Card Recordings

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