The gig tonight is set to be as much an art installation as it is musical performance with Public Service Broadcasting touring their new album, Inform – Educate – Entertain.
The London based duo of guitarist, J. Willgoose, esq. and his percussive partner, Wrigglesworth, aim to “teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future” by sampling old public information films and audio clips editing them together with a score of modern instrumental dance music.
Up first and supporting for the Scottish leg of the tour is Aberdonian indie pop quartet The Little Kicks.
They have the major sound and melancholic lyrics inherent to create catchy pop tunes but when playing live fuse them with synth loops and drum beats more associated with the on trend disco of a James Murphy record.
Their set builds impressively from start to finish, moving from reflective harmonies to more strutting dance elements with a sense of momentum and fun.
Before Public Service Broadcasting take to the stage the room goes dark and messages are put out onto the seven old TV screens accompanied by an authoritative voice warning the audience how annoying amateur phone recording at gigs is.
A small brass section appear and play an intro for the band who enter dressed in tweed, bow ties and buddy holly glasses, then air raid sirens begin to blare out of the PA and they launch into ‘London Can Take It’ from 2012’s The War Room.
Willgoose, switches between distorted electric guitar and reverb heavy banjo throughout the set while Wrigglesworth plays drums and keys.
These instrumental loops, vocal samples and use of instruments, not always associated with dance music, give the band a similar live presence to acts like Lemon Jelly and as they continue with ‘Theme from Psb’, which has quite a cheery sound that wouldn’t feel out of place on Lost Horizons.
There is a darker sound that emerges slowly throughout the evening, tracks like ‘Night Mail’, build from more driving guitars and broken beats, while over the top there are stiff upper lipped, BBC English voices from the various points in the early 20th century, which overall form a slightly sinister composite like some kind of audio ransom note where each fragment ties in to create one monologue.
The visuals all tie into this collage and vary from old documentaries to infomercials, intermitted with stylised graphics of satellites and oscilloscopes moving in time to the beat.
Interestingly though for a band that has chosen not to use conventional vocals and has formed their entire sound around snippets of what could be considered propaganda clips there isn’t a hint of a social or political message about the performance.
In some ways this is a positive and allows the music and visuals to be free of having to carry any great weighted message though in other parts allows the samples to wear a bit thin, feeling more like a gimmick than a fully formed artistic concept.
Public Service Broadcasting instead creates a lively if not slightly nostalgic image of the Britain of yesteryear.
Without digging too deep they create songs about great public institutions, exploration and spitfires, exemplified as they are rejoined by the brass section for their encore and play us out with the romanticised electro pop of ‘Everest.’
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Words: Steven Penman
Photos: John Graham