wed 21/11/2018

CD: Public Service Broadcasting - The Race for Space | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Public Service Broadcasting - The Race for Space

CD: Public Service Broadcasting - The Race for Space

London duo make a successful bid for the moon

PSB offer a contender for 2015's best album cover art

The 1960s media's wild excitement about the space race is now almost forgotten. The era when every boy wanted to be an astronaut is ancient history. The period is, however, a goldmine for gloriously kitsch cosmic samples, a fact electronic groups such as The Orb have taken advantage of. Conversely, the new album from Public Service Broadcasting mines the area for neither irony nor comedy. The London duo’s second album is, instead, determined to celebrate humanity’s wide-eyed initial glee at blasting beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.

Musically Public Service Broadcasting are somewhat reminiscent of underground jam band The Egg. Both units’ funk and electronic explorations are tight rather than indulgent, usually tempered with warmth, melodic suss and a psychedelic edge that make them very moreish. The Egg, however, have often lacked a clear raison d’etre whereas PSB inhabit a very serviceable pop cultural niche.

Their debut, 2013’s Inform – Educate – Entertain was like a DJ and his mates jamming wittily with old Pathé newsreels but The Race for Space is more conceptually consistent. In fact, it’s a rich and thoroughly enjoyable nine-track journey, starting out choral and epic, utilising John F Kennedy’s 1962 “We choose to go to the Moon” speech, a catalyst in getting the US behind NASA, and concluding with the string-laden, elegiac “Tomorrow”, which uses speech samples from the final Apollo mission of 1972. In between there’s a bloopy techno instrumental ode to Sputnik; brassy superhero funk in honour of Russian space pioneer Yuri Gagarin; a sweet floaty tribute to Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, featuring alt-folkers the Smoke Fairies; the dark-ambient gloom of “Fire in the Cockpit” eulogising the Apollo 1 disaster, and four other tracks that are equally precision-themed and worthwhile.

Public Service Broadcasting, working with clips from the BFI archives, have reinvented the concept album as a delightful, historically engaged rave-up.

Overleaf: Watch the video for "Gagarin"

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