Review: Public Service Broadcasting- 'Every Valley' (PIAS)
A soundscape that resonates the Valleys beauty, heartache and striking romanticism
It almost goes without saying that Public Service Broadcasting (PSB), a pseudonymous duo from London consisting of J. Wilgoose, Esq and Wrigglesworth, thrive on embracing music's thematic potential through the LP format. An album that limits itself to only a collection of songs would be a missed opportunity for the band: Inform-Educate-Entertain (2013) arguably (if not intentionally) revisits Adorno's cynical perceptions of the 'Culture Industry', and The Race for Space (2015) succeeding in reminding its audience of the chest pounding demonstrations of technological prowess from the superpowers involved in the cold war.
In their latest release Every Valley, Public Service Broadcasting scale down the geography of their political interests to the coal mining communities in South Wales, mirroring the despair of many isolated societies who have fallen to the formidable and unceasing forces of globalisation and technological advancement.
This album, however, does not restrict its focus to recreating past political events, despite these being pertinent to the overarching theme: Wilgoose described this as "an album about 'pride, anger, strength and ultimately loss" whilst outlining the ingrained romanticism that originally drew him towards the region. As a work of impressionism, it achieves much of what it set out to: the opening title showcases this early nineteenth-century inspiration through the theatrical vibrato string arrangement before progressing into a dauntless fanfare. This prominent brass follows through into 'The Pit', but only as part of a darker yet reflective undertone as the miners descend into the unrelenting wilderness. Featuring artists also adopt a slightly more frontline role in comprising the narrative in this project, such as with the lead single 'Progress' (Tracyanne Campbell) which arguably offers the most optimistic projection of the de-industrializing town, perhaps ironically as man is promoted to supervisory roles as 'the machines do the heavy work'.
It could be argued that the most enthralling section of this album lies between 'All Out' and 'Turn No More' (James Dean Bradfield): the first of which so satisfyingly captures the anger created through communal uncertainty whilst adopting the harmonic language and tonality of Sonic Youth, and followed by a distorted yet percussive drone that exemplifies the 'madness on the streets' whilst keeping the listener fixated on the edge of their seats. The longest contribution however 'You+ Me' regrettably finds itself to be the most underwhelming in that it fails to distinguish itself from what its title immediately suggests: a predictable ballad that presents love as salvation in the face of loss, yet falling into the same grave of mediocrity as 'Aftermath' in Muse's concept album Drones (2015).
The concept at face value may not have the immediate magnetism of The Race for Space with the political context being superiorly publicised, but the storytelling in Every Valley in many ways touches upon something more personal and arguably important to all of human kind; the desire to belong.
From start to finish the theatrical and often irregular orchestration, that some may draw similarities to the eccentric tonality of Johnny Greenwood's work in There Will Be Blood (2007), drags the listener from uncertainty to sadness and anger, whilst teasing them with the comfort of solitude which if anything comes close to capturing the hardships of enduring a depleting sense of belonging.Public Service Broadcasting, therefore, have succeeded in offering isolated communities similar to the Valley's some conciliation, through creating a distinguished conceptual identity that emulates their lamentation.