Chroniques

Prog | December 2018

Public Service Broadcasting

Venue | Royal Albert Hall, London
Date | 01/11/2018

If Public Service Broadcasting have sometimes suggested an air of fusty academia, all history lessons and libraries, tonight’s the night they shake that off. Reaching a career pinnacle by selling out the Royal Albert Hall, they fill it with colour, physicality and even a dash of showbiz. By the time the brass section in gold sequinned jackets are gyrating downstage with two extras in astronaut suits, exhorting the audience to dance, there’s no denying it: PSB are fun. Intelligent, innovative and atmospheric, but also emotive and exciting. They’re the little band that got big fast, but they’re using the G-force to their advantage.

With tracks that marry krautrock-electronica instrumentals to astutely judged samples capturing the heroism and drame of mountain-climbing, space travel and the fall of the South Wales mining industry, they’re not, on paper, a party band. Yet people have caught on to the adrenaline rush inherent in their sonic stories. ‘A climber climbs with his guts, his brain, his soul and his feet’, declares Everest. The band have realised the brain can’t make the summit alone, so they’ve kept rising. Tonight’s show simmers, then soars.

Diffident fulcrum J Wilgoose Esq plays guitars like Michael Rother and keyboards like OMD, while the rhythm section of drummer Wrigglesworth and bassist (and multi-instrumentalist) JF Abraham bring flesh and blood to the high concepts. Abraham is key to the visual element, his highly mobile enthusiasm a bridge to the crowd. Sure, the films (with relevant topics, from space modules to miners’ wives) and lighting are impressive, but to see musicians playing and hitting stuff gives the mood a heat you wouldn’t get with anonymous tweakers standing behind laptops. There’s a string section and intermittent cameos, ensuring the Chemical Brothers-style electronic backdrops support rather than swallow the humanity. Given that PSB’s chosen themes regard the best aspects of humanity – courage, nobility, resilience – that’s shrewd.

White Star Liner, from the invigorating new EP concerning the Titanic, gets a London debut. Otherwise, the set swoops between favourites, from Every Valley to Sputnik to Spitfire. Tracyanne Campbell sings Progress, Haiku Salut perform They Gave Me A Lamp and Lisa Jên joins a bashful Wilgoose for the incongruous ballad duet You + Me.

Everyone’s up and air-punching for the climax of The Other Side and Go. Clearly a rush for the incredulous South London band, it’s been an inspiring, motivating night, co-opting the daring of the space race protagonists and the steadfast pathos of the neglected Welsh communities. Then, as the ensemble departs, the Beaufort Male Choir bestride the stage to sing Take Me Home, and we learn how many coals it takes to fill the Albert Hall. Not a dry eye in the house. We’ve been taken to the other side.

Chris Roberts

Prog | décembre 2018

Public Service Broadcasting

Lieu | Royal Albert Hall, Londres
Date | 01/11/2018

Si Public Service Broadcasting ont parfois suggéré un air de monde universitaire qui sent le renfermé, tout en cours d’histoire et bibliothèques, ce soir, c’est le soir où ils se défont de tout cela. Atteignant un apogée de carrière en vendant le Royal Albert Hall à guichets fermés, ils le remplissent de couleur, de réalité physique et même d’une pointe de showbiz. Au moment où la section de cuivres aux vestes en sequins dorés tournoie sur scène avec deux figurants vêtus de costumes d’astronautes, encourageant le public à danser, on ne peut nier que PSB sont marrants. Intelligents, innovateurs et atmosphériques, certes, mais également sensibles et formidables. C’est le petit groupe qui est devenu rapidement grand, mais ils utilisent le G à leur avantage.

Avec des morceaux qui marient des instrumentales krautrock-electronica à des samples astucieusement jaugés capturant l’héroïsme et le drame de l’escalade, du voyage dans l’espace et du déclin de l’industrie minière du Sud du Pays de Galles, ils ne sont pas, sur le papier, un groupe de fêtards. Pourtant les gens ont saisi la poussée d’adrénaline inhérente à leurs histoires sonores. “Un grimpeur grimpe avec son ventre, son cerveau, son âme et ses pieds”, déclare Everest. Le groupe s’est rendu compte que le cerveau ne peut atteindre le sommet seul, alors ils ont continué à monter. Le concert de ce soir bouillonne, puis s’envole.

Le point d’appui réservé J. Willgoose, Esq. joue de la guitare comme Michael Rother et du clavier comme OMD, tandis que la section rythmique du batteur Wrigglesworth et du bassiste (et multi-instrumentaliste) JF Abraham apporte de la chair et du sang aux grands concepts. Abraham est la clé de l’élément visuel, son enthousiasme grandement mobile un pont vers le public. Il est certain que les fims (avec des sujets pertinents, de modules spatiaux aux femmes de mineurs) et les lumières sont impressionnants, mais voir des musiciens jouer et frapper des choses donne à l’humeur une chaleur qu’on n’aurait pas avec des anonymes qui tripotent des ordinateurs. Il y a une section à cordes et des caméos intermittents, assurant une toile de fond électronique à la Chemical Brothers sans absorber l’humanité. Étant donné que les thèmes choisis par PSB concernant les meilleurs aspects de l’humanité – le courage, la noblesse, la ténacité – c’est malin.

White Star Liner, extrait du nouvel EP revigorant à propos du Titanic, est joué pour la première fois à Londres. Sinon, le set zappe entre les favoris, de Every Valley à Spitfire en passant par Sputnik. Tracyanne Campbell chante sur Progress, Haiku Salut apparaissent sur They Gave Me A Lamp et Lisa Jên Brown rejoint un timide Willgoose pour le duo ballade incongru You + Me.

Tout le monde lève le bras et bat de l’air pour le grand moment de The Other Side et Go!. Clairement une montée pour l’incrédule groupe du Sud de Londres, cela a été une soirée inspirante et motivante, récupérant l’audace des protagonistes de la course à l’espace et le pathos inébranlable des communautés galloise négligées. Puis, alors que l’ensemble s’en va, le Beaufort Male Choir enfourche la scène pour chanter Take Me Home, et nous apprenons combien de charbon il faut pour remplir l’Albert Hall. Tout le monde a les larmes aux yeux. Ils nous ont emmenés de l’autre côté.

Chris Roberts

Traduction : 26 janvier 2022

Prog | September 2018

Bluedot Festival

Venue | Jodrell Bank, Cheshire
Date | 19-22/07/18

[…]

Earlier in the evening on the main stage, Public Service Broadcasting deliver the goods, dedicating Theme From PSB to Bernard Lovell and his famous landmark. Their set is equally weighted between songs from latest album Every Valley and the more site-friendly The Race For Space. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest crowd-pleasers come from the latter: the jubilant Go! and the brass-heavy pump of Gagarin.

[…]

Rob Hughes

Prog | septembre 2018

Bluedot Festival

Lieu | Jodrell Bank, Cheshire
Date | 19-22/07/18

[…]

Plus tôt dans la soirée sur la scène principale, Public Service Broadcasting répond aux attentes, dédicaçant Theme From PSB à Bernard Lovell et son monument célèbre. Leur set est également réparti entre les chansons de leur dernier album Every Valley et le plus adapté au lieu The Race For Space. Peut-être sans surprise, les chansons qui plaisent le plus au public sont extraites de ce dernier : Go!, débordant de joie, et Gagarin et ses cuivres prononcés.

[…]

Rob Hughes

Traduction : 26 janvier 2022

MOJO | May 2013


PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING ****

Inform – Educate – Entertain Test Card. CD/LP

History-rocking London duo raid the archives.

When playing live, Public Service Broadcasting have a computer to make stage announcements; but rather than a cold robot voice, it’s a simulated Received Pronunciation radio presenter that tells the crowd they’re looking good. Such is the group’s Reithian, time-slipped world, which mainman J. Willgoose envisaged when hopped up on BFI Public information films. Overlaying adrenalised post-rock and electronics with sampled dialogue from movies of the ’30s to the ’50s may sound like a dry premise, but there is a strange and gripping transport to be had in these imaginative flights concerning climbing Mount Everest, the Luftwaffe-bashing Spitfire and, in the Kraftwerk-in-a-garden-shed banjo clap-along ROYGBIV, the glories of science (are PSB driven by bygone but benign, pipe-smoking idea of manliness that seems so out dated it’s become avant-garde?). File admiringly next to British Sea Power and the Hauntologist tendency.

Ian Harrison

The Sunday Times | 9 July 2017

Public Service Broadcasting
Every Valley
Pias

The decline of the Welsh mining industry doesn’t sound like a pop topic, but in the hands of a band whose albums have explored the space race and inventions including colour TV, it provides inspiration. The sample-centric Londoners raid the archives for footage (Richard Burton’s booming voice included) to tell a stirring community tale via disco, broody post-rock, jittery electro and beguiling folk. James Dean Bradfield and Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell guest alongside a male-voice choir, colliery brass and sumptuous strings.

LV

The Bristol Post | 24 April 2015

REVIEW: Public Service Broadcasting, Bristol O2 Academy by Mike Norton 5/5

There were so many moments of sublime beauty during this stellar performance that it’s almost impossible to pick one out. But, for me, the highpoint came just over half-way through when the two singers from able support act The Smoke Fairies came back on stage to sing Valentina.

It’s not a complicated song. A clever, skippy drumbeat. A plaintive arpeggio picked out on a spacey guitar. A wash of electronic backfill. And the two women singing the word « Valentina » between them. But the sum of these parts was simply splendid – poignant, soaring and hypnotic. When the song finished and the cheering had died down, the packed O2 Academy audience seemed almost stunned in to silence. And then a woman near the back said: « Your band is brilliant ». She didn’t shout it. She just said it quite loudly. And she spoke for everyone there.

Public Service Broadcasting have come a long way since they were last in Bristol in November 2013. With one album under their belt, I wondered then if their idea of creating songs around samples from information films from the 40s and 50s was sustainable. This year’s second album The Race for Space – which takes samples from the US and Russian space programmes of the 60s – has proved that it is.

Live, there are just four band members. « Frontman » and musical virtuoso J Wildgoose esq (who neither sings nor talks), superb drummer Wrigglesworth, audio-visual expert Mr B (inventor of a model sputnik that rose from the stage during the set) and new member J F Abraham on percussion, bass and flugelhorn. There was also the surprise appearance of a brass section for a couple of numbers.

Interestingly, the average age of the audience (probably 40-plus) was significantly older than that of the band itself. That’s probably why, despite many of the songs’ driving beats, there was no mosh pit, no excessive exuberance at the front. At the most, I saw widespread and enthusiastic head-nodding.

The band’s clever blend of voices and images from the past with live instruments and a host of modern music technology is a distinctive and winning formula. But they’re funny, too – using samples to talk to the audience, telling us at one point to « simmer down ».

Some of the older songs have quickly become stalwarts – Night MailThe Now GenerationTheme from PSB and If War Should Come all went down well. And the biggest cheers of the night came for Spitfire and Everest – the climax of an absolute tour-de-force encore.

But Gagarin, Go! and The Other Side from the new album were also magnificent.

Quite simply, we were watching a band at the top of its game. A couple of times during the set, the members flicked smiles at each other. What they’re doing is brilliant. And they know it.

Uncut | March 2015

Public Service Broadcasting
The Race For Space
Test Card Recordings 7/10

Corduroy-clad duo ditch the kitsch and look to the skies

If Public Service Broadcasting’s last album created Avalanches-style musical collages, blending public information film samples with banjos and beats, the London duo’s second LP is a more focused effort, concentrating on man’s adventures in space. This is no retro-kitsch novelty but a gripping tribute to an extraordinary period in history, much of it drawn from the BFI archive and filtered through Jean-Michelle Jarre-style electronica (“Sputnik”), ’70s soul-funk (“Gagarin”) and, on “Valentine”, a hymn to the first woman in space, post-rock. Rich and evocative, The Race For Space is the sound of two young men gazing heavenwards and dreaming.

Fiona Sturges

The Sunday Times | 9 juillet 2017

Public Service Broadcasting
Every Valley
Pias

Le déclin de l’industrie du charbon gallois ne semble pas être un sujet pop, mais dans les mains d’un groupe dont les albums ont exploré la course à l’espace et des inventions telles que la télévision couleur, il fournit de l’inspiration. Les Londoniens centrés sur les samples dévalisent les archives à la recherche d’images (dont la voix retentissante de Richard Burton) pour raconter un récit de communauté émouvant via la disco, le post-rock taciturne, l’électro fébrile et le folk charmant. James Dean Bradfield et Tracyanne Campbell de Camera Obscura apparaissent aux côtés d’une chorale d’hommes, de cuivre de mines et de cordes somptueuses.

LV

Traduction : 29 octobre 2019

The Times | 7 juillet 2017

Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley

Pias. 4/5

Un petit farceur en ligne a dit de Public Service Broadcasting : “C’est ce qui arrive quand on ne plonge pas assez la tête des mômes du club d’échec dans les toilettes”. C’est une approbation terrible pour tabasser les intellos frêles, mais avec le penchant de PSB pour les samples vocaux vintages sur du rock progressif mordant et leur faiblesse occasionnelle pour les nœuds papillon, cela a un peu de vérité.

Pour leur dernier album en date, le trio londonien se tourne vers l’histoire de l’exploitation minière au Pays de Galles pour l’inspiration ; la voix maltée de Richard Burton ouvre l’album, louant “la démarche arrogante des seigneurs du front de taille”. À partir de là, c’est un voyage au travers les jours de gloire, les challenges et la mort éventuelle de l’industrie minière.

L’électro-pop Progress oppose la chanteuse invitée Tracyanne Campbell à des voix célébrant la technologie qui a mécanisé l’exploitation minière ; All Out comprend des guitares violentes sous les histoires orales de la grève des mineurs de 1984 ; et la poignante et larmoyante Mother Of The Village accepte la fin d’une tradition vieille de plusieurs siècles.

Take Me Home, sur laquelle le Beaufort Male Choir offre une éloge funèbre stoïque à la vie de village, referme une unique proposition : un album concept sur la dignité du travail.

Traduction : 20 juillet 2019