Public Service Broadcasting + Story Books à la Library de l’Institute de Birmingham, Royaume-Uni – 12 novembre 2013
Le concert de ce soir est animé par Public Service Broadcasting, duo basé à Londres constitué de J. Willgoose, Esq. à la guitare, au banjo, autres instruments à cordes, sample et instruments électroniques, et Wrigglesworth à la batterie (mais il joue également d’autres instruments) et accompagnés sur scène par Mr B pour les visuels, les projections et quelques images live ponctuelles de Willgoose et Wrigglesworth.
Public Service Broadcasting + Story Books at the Library, Institute, Birmingham, UK – 12th November 2013
Tonight’s gig is brought to you by Public Service Broadcasting; a London based duo consisting of J. Willgoose, Esq. on guitar, banjo, other stringed instruments, samplings and electronic instruments; and Wrigglesworth on drums (but also plays piano other instruments), and accompanied on stage by “Mr B.” for the visuals, projections and some ad-hoc live video footage of Willgoose and Wrigglesworth.
PSB’s music is sampled from a wide variety of sources, extracts from Public Information Film reels, Propaganda material, particularly around technology and various archive materials, including the British Film Institute and other which is then sampled and woven around Guitars, Banjo’s, Synths and Drums. If you can recall Thomas Dolby’s “ Windpower” where John Marsh’s clipped BBC RP (Received Pronunciation) voice reads the “Shipping Forecast, this is a good starting point.
But first, the support band. Story Books is a 5 piece indie/alternative band hailing from Sittingbourne in Kent and comprising of Kristofer Harris (vocals / guitar), Robert Wilks (drums), Joseph Whitnell (bass), Andrew Parry (keyboards) and Jack Tarrant (guitar) and formed in 2010, quickly gaining interest from Radio 1, 6 Music and XFM with their second release “Peregrine” (The first being “All Those Arrows”). The band is supporting Public Service Broadcasting for 5 shows on this UK Autumn tour and this is show 4 of 5 and incidentally, their first Birmingham gig.
The band play a short set of melodic, thoughtful songs; the majority from their EP “Too Much a Hunter”, out on Communion Records. Harris’ vocals are similar in tone and delivery to an early Ian McCulloch. The highlights of the set (for me) are “Peregrine” and “All Those Arrows”. Harris’ guitar playing style is somewhat aggressive at times, almost stabbing at the guitar, to the extent that he breaks a string. They are well received by the audience and certainly a band to keep an eye on for the future.
On stage there are two projection screens and a radio mast similar in style to that in Kraftwerk’s “Radioactivity”. At each side of the stage at the front there is a stack of old TV’s…the really early bulky Cathode Ray Tube models (if you want to know about Cathode Ray Tubes, go and look it up) which also act as display screens for the show. PSB come on stage at around 9.10, to a full Library, made up of a fairly mature audience (if any had arrived with pipes and slippers, they’d be in the right place). Apart from a brief wave and smile to the audience, none of the band speaks to the audience. All communication is via Willgoose and the press of a pre-programmed button, “Hello”, and “Thank You …Very Much”.
The set opens with “London Can Take It” from their “War Room EP” with World War II projections on the screens. Next, “Theme From Public Service Broadcasting” an up tempo number from their debut album with some very catchy banjo playing and then “Inform – Educate – Entertain” which is an extremely, infectious track, packed with samples of the bright post war optimism “a bright new era dawning” I’d half expected Harold Wilson’s “White Heat of Technology” speech from 1963 to be included in there somewhere. “The Now Generation” follows, a track about retro fashion, all dressed in crimplene and nylon with very “Kraftwerk” style keyboards. Signal 30 an upbeat track dealing with car accidents and road rage, with great crashing guitars coming to an abrupt end with a scream and a car crash.
The electronic voice speaks to the audience “Thank you, it’s great to be here at the library….. shhhh sorry. We always wanted to play at the Library”. Next up is “New Dimensions in Sound”, followed by the machine vox “Thank you we have two new songs to play for you tonight. Ice skating songs in Dutch”. Some wag in the audience calls out for “Nik Kershaw” but the comment is ignored and the band starts up “Elfstedentocht Part 1”. Night Mail is a modern “retro” “Trans Europe Express” and samples the 1936 General Post Office (Now Royal Mail) film “Night Mail” where John Grierson narrates WH Auden’s poem written for the GPO. “Thank you very much. What a lovely crowd you are, Birmingham.”
“Elfstedentocht Part 2” follows, a much slower number than “Part 1” then another track from the “War Room”, “If War Should Come” a slow introduction, building up the bass, finishing with Chamberlain “This country is at war”. “Spitfire” opens with the sound of a plane screaming by and grinding guitars which samples the 1942 war movie “First of the Few” about the development of the Spitfire. During the track Mr. B. feeds live footage of the band onto the projection screens. The track finishes to strobe lighting as the guitars and drums pound to a conclusion. The set is closed by “Lit Up”, a slow, sombre number, with projections of warships at night, concluding with a peal of bells.
For the encore, the band return to the stage, almost knocking over the Radio mast at the back of the small stage on the way in. The machine voice apologises for the mishap “Hello, Sorry” and introduces the band. “On visuals, Mr B., on Drums the one and only Wigglesworth….someone waves at the band, “Give ‘em a wave Wigglesworth. And everything else… me!”
“ROYGBIV” sees the banjo return over samples of colour TV propaganda whilst a rainbow of colours, flowers and the PSB “Inform – Educate-Entertain” logo slowly rotates on screen. The audience gets a “Thank you Birmingham, this is our last song. The final track “Everest” narrates the discovery and ascent of the mountain with guitars and keyboards soundtracking the visuals of the ascent.
With a “Thank you very, very, very…. (And a few more very’s).. much” the band leave the stage to the theme for “Last of the Summer Wine” and cheers and applause from the audience. Even though they do not have the usual discourse with the audience, the synthesised chat is done with great humour and not a “po-face” to be seen. One final message to the audience “We’ve had a wonderful time, goodnight”, and from the crowd’s reaction, so have they.
PSB have taken the use of sampling to its extreme, and eliminated vocals entirely from their performance. There are references to Kraftwerk in there and a few other bands (including a little New Order type guitar on occasion) However the results need to be seen and heard. The album” Inform – Educate – Entertain” is a very clever and enjoyable album, which hooks you in from the first track. I’m keen to see how the follow-up would sound. If they follow the blueprint of the first album, they have a hundred years of archive material to mine to their hearts content.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Mail, The Now Generation, Theme 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.
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.