Public Service Broadcasting – The Race For Space (Album Review)

Source: Pitchfork

Source: Pitchfork

For a long time, electronic music and Krautrock in particular has been obsessed with the future. Imagining how things would sound in future, or even using old ideas and manipulating them into something that sounds like it’s from the future. Science-Fiction has always been the same; dreaming where man might end up one day with the endless possibilities travelling through space and time. It’s rare that anyone really makes an effort to sound like the past with no intention of moving a genre forward.

Public Service Broadcasting does this. Their past projects have focused on human endeavours up Mount Everest and the creation of the colour TV and now ‘The Race For Space’ sounds like a soundtrack to a very old sci-fi film focusing on the journey to the moon. Using an incredible amount of old clips from what sounds like space programmes and basically creating the theme music for them. None of these clips are particularly exciting – they all document a time in which the Russians and Americans were pushing the boundaries of space travel. They all sound like bits of documentation like on the track ‘The Other Side’ which very slowly documents the first time mankind saw the far side of the moon on Apollo 8. This is played over the top of live instrumentation that is almost similar to the way Daft Punk created mass amounts of tension on their track ‘Control’. This never quite gets as aggressive as that as the song’s crescendos are a lot more focused on being serene than chaotic. They make sure that they give the vocal samples enough room to breathe.

This room to breathe for the samples can occasionally be a bit too much room as they do occasionally feel a bit disconnected from the record like on the track, ‘Sputnik’ on which the instrumental does nothing to compliment the story. The way in which they take influence from Krautrock can occasionally be detrimental when it means that the effects become nothing but background noise. Further into the record though they find their feet with this like on the track ‘Valentina’ – an ode to sending the first woman into space. This song is what you’d hope the beauty of space to feel like – beautifully played guitars and the general sense of serenity of floating.

There is a general sense that on this album Public Service Broadcasting set out to make an album that celebrates one of mankind’s greatest achievements. From the grand and wide variety of instrumentation used, to the way in which they incorporate documentations into their music. The only problem is that it ends up sounding more like a documentation itself rather than a full-scale celebration. The album does very little to invoke a proper response. BUT, that’s not to take away from the fact that as a documentation, it does a bloody good job.


Best Tracks, Valentina, The Other Side

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