Public Service Broadcasting win the Race For Space
by Patrick Cameron
Hot on the heels of their sold out UK tour, Public Service Broadcasting came to Kulturfabrik on Saturday night to play in front of a somewhat modest crowd by their standing. I apportion some blame on the opening of Rotondes this weekend for the lack of numbers.
If you are not familiar with PSB they are a musical duo consisting of J. Willgoose Esq and Wigglesworth. They mix together samples from old public information footage and propaganda material with live drums, guitar, banjo and synth/keys as well as a flugelhorn for good measure.
Their debut album received critical acclaim, finding itself on many end of year lists for best album. However, having such a unique sound might have hindered many bands on their follow up, with people even questioning whether their sound was too gimmicky to work a second time round. That was put to bed a couple of months ago when they released their follow up ‘The Race for Space”.
As the title suggests, it focuses on the US-Soviet space race from the 50s to the 70s. The new subject matter allowed the band to enter into the grander soundscape of space and all the possibilities that entailed.
They opened proceedings with the pulsating ‘Sputnik' off their new album, which in turn introduced the crowd to the monochromatic footage of scientists in their labs, as well as images of the Sputnik satellite flying through space. It’s from these old videos that they get all their audio and source material for their music.
Then came the screeching flurry of ‘Signal 30’. They moved into post rock territory here, giving their live show a much fuller feel than I thought possible. With no microphone, Willgoose resorts to a pre recorded jilted computer voice to deliver his amusing between-songs-chat with the audience. A nice touch to keep the crowd entertained as they go through their setup between songs.
The coloration with visuals and music became most apparent on ‘E.V.A’, as the visuals showed a rocket blasting off, the music was frantic with some jazz signatures and lots of energy, but the moment the astronaut stepped out into space the music was reduced to just the faintest few chords on the keyboard and gave the feeling of pure solitude. It was a great moment where it all came together perfectly well.
But they left it to 'The Other Side' to create the best piece of suspense, with the visuals and sound from NASA’s mission control for Apollo 8 as it passes through the dark side of the moon. As we lost contact with the spacecraft on screen the whole stage descended into darkness, music cut out, you could hear a pin drop and then slowly as the craft came out from the other side, the music built till it regained contact and the drums kicked back in, a wonderful piece of theatrics.
They brought the evening to a close with sweeping grandiose epic of ‘Everest” from their debut album.
I wondered if the rigid structures of the visuals would allow the songs enough space to breathe in the live surroundings, if they would be too rigid and feel stunted, but if anything the sound is even grander and all encompassing than I expected, a wonderfully original show and one I won't forget in a hurry.