The Race For Space LP due Feb 23rd 2015
Public Service Broadcasting are pleased to share their eagerly anticipated new album The Race For Space– due Feb 23rd 2015 via Test Card Recordings.
Granted unique access to historically important films from the BFI, PSB go back in time and explore the period when the USA and USSR fought to gain the upper hand in a new frontier – space.
The record follows the release of their acclaimed debut album Inform – Educate – Entertain in 2013 which reached #21 in the UK album chart, was nominated for Best Independent Album at the AIM Awards and included in BBC 6Music’s Top 10 Albums of the Year. 18 months’ extensive touring across the world followed with over 200 shows in support of the album. Highlights included audiences queueing round the block at their showcase at The British Music Embassy @ SXSW, the band wowing festival audiences up and down the country including Glastonbury, Bestival, Green Man and many more,selling out countless headline shows (London’s Forum, The Mercury Lounge in New York & Lanificio in Rome to name a few) – not to mention supporting the likes of The Rolling Stones, New Order & Manic Street Preachers.
The Race For Space features some firsts for the duo – lead single ‘Gagarin’ features a 6-piece brass section and a 5-piece string section, a superhero funk tune for the most famous man in the world at the time. More surprisingly, the album opens with the celestial tones of a choir, recorded at Abbey Road Studios;and perhaps most unexpected of all is the addition of guest vocalists on one track.The clear picture is of aband that are constantly evolving and pushing the scope of their sound.
“I get a bit frustrated when we’re asked questions about ‘nostalgia’,” says self-effacing Public Service Broadcasting director-general J. Willgoose, Esq. “The samples are archival, but the songs aren’t using antique or period music, at all. We’re bringing things from the past and framing them in new ways, to engage with them in the present.”
Engagement is easy on Public Service Broadcasting’s new album The Race For Space. It’s an integrated yet unpredictable song suite that vividly reimagines the super-powers’ rivalry for supremacy in space between 1957 and 1972. Along the way, we touch down on the lunar Sea Of Tranquillity, hitch a ride on the Sputnik 1 satellite and take the first space walk in history. We also reconnect with stirring human stories of life, death and courage, all to a broadened soundtrack of funk, techno and folk alongside the electro-rock riffing that has so far underpinned the band’s emotive collages of music and vintage audio samples.
And to the question of why focus on space for this album?Willgoose answers: “To me this is the most extraordinary period of history there ever was and quite possibly ever will be. The story’s part of trying to understand, literally, what on Earth we’re doing. What is the point of us? Why are we here, on this strange blue and green orb? And what did the first ever journeys leaving this planet tell us about ourselves, and our place in the universe?”
Much ground has been covered since the first Public Service Broadcasting gig – a one-man Willgoose show at The Selkirk pub in Tooting on August 2009. However, further biographical details remain scant: a modest, quietly spoken gent who admits to being prone to pessimism and self-doubt, Willgoose is wary of his even his first name being known (“I didn’t realise I was such a private person until this started going places,” he quips). Yet his teenage listening habits illuminate the homebrewed but panoramic music he makes today. Oasis made him pick up a guitar, but it was the more conceptually demanding provocations of Manic Street Preachers, David Bowie and The KLF that really opened his mind.
The latter group’s maverick influence is arguably present on The Race For Space’s antic but serious lead track ‘Gagarin’, an Afrobeat-with-balalaikas tribute to the first man in space, with James Brown breaks and a babel of voices.
There are other contrasting atmospheres. The first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova – another icon of Soviet cosmonautics – is saluted on ‘Valentina’, a reflective, Sigur Ros-influenced song of controlled strength, wherein her name is intoned by Sussex dream-folk duo Smoke Fairies. “It’s an attempt to give her voice back,” says Willgoose, “instead of her being used as a tool of Soviet propaganda, standing on podiums surrounded by men.” There is heavier gravity on ‘Fire In The Cockpit’, which relates the 1967 tragedy of Apollo 1, when three astronauts died during a launch rehearsal. “I was wary of covering the subject for fear of seeming disrespectful, but in the end felt it would have been more disrespectful to leave them out,” says J.
And so it continues, with techno pulse / Balearic rocker ‘Sputnik’, the moon landing speed trial of ‘Go!’ and the funky space walk of ‘E.V.A.’, among others, delivering emotive charges of drama, heroism and wonder. It’s striking how much it avoids the clichés of the epoch – there are no Genesis readings or small steps for man here – and how powerfully the danger, scale and sheer momentousness of these achievements are imparted.
“The record is an attempt to translate an emotional response and musically connect with the bravery and excitement of that period,” concludes Willgoose. “And ultimately, it’s meant to be about putting a smile on people’s faces, too. People are coming to gigs, not bloody history lessons. I always said to entertain was what we were aiming to do.”
In this, The Race For Space succeeds outstandingly. Strap yourself in. It’s going to be some ride.
Tracklisting: 1. The Race For Space, 2. Sputnik, 3. Gagarin, 4. Fire In The Cockpit, 5. E.V.A., 6. The Other Side, 7. Valentina [Ft. Smoke Fairies], 8. Go!, 9. Tomorrow
PSB’s attention to detail has also extended to the unique cover art, which offers listeners a choice of selecting either the USA or USSR as the front cover. Both images open to a gatefold centre in which, just as in space, there is no ‘correct’ way up or down.