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Public Service Broadcasting ‘The Race For Space’ – Album Review

Test Card Recordings (2015)

As much a documentary as a conventional studio album, The Race For Space sees geeky London duo J. Willgoose, Esq. and Wrigglesworth, aka Public Service Broadcasting, switch their attention to the history of space travel on a second remarkable blend of krautrock, ambient electronica and archive audio footage.

Jumping ahead several decades from 2013’s Inform-Educate-Entertain, which borrowed heavily from the public information films of the pre-war era, these nine tracks focus on the years between 1957 and 1972, when America and Russia fought for technological supremacy in the most intense manner imaginable.

It’s a clever and intriguing concept that Public Service Broadcasting pull off expertly, from the moment John F. Kennedy’s “we choose to go to the moon” speech plays against a suitably soaring choir on the opening track, “The Race For Space.”

The Kraftwerk-esque “The Other Side” perfectly captures the anxiety and relief inside the Apollo 8 mission control room with an inspired use of static and silence before bursting into life with swelling guitars and cinematic strings. “E.U.A.” serves up a similarly tense, yet altogether more proggy, soundtrack to document the feat of the first ever spacewalk, while “Sputnik” commemorates the first man-made satellite with an atmospheric array of lunar bleeps and muted house beats.

Elsewhere, “Gagarin” is an exuberant ode to a certain cosmonaut named Yuri which sounds like Miami Sound Machine covering a Blaxploitation soundtrack. “Valentina” is a gorgeously dreamy ode to the first woman in space, featuring guest vocals from folk-pop duo Smoke Fairies. And “Fire In The Cockpit,” a stark, cello-driven piece inspired by the ill-fated Apollo 1 mission, shows that the pair are just as adept at scoring tragedies as they are triumphs.

Public Service Broadcasting have previously revealed that their aim is “teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future.” It’s a mission that The Race For Space completes in awe-inspiring style.


4 / 5 stars     

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About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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