Public Service Broadcasting

Every Valley

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London's Public Service Broadcasting are a sort of postmodern plunderphonic pop group who build songs around samples from old educational films and archival footage. Their sound isn't too far off from an imaginary collaboration between Negativland and Explosions in the Sky, but somehow it's more accessible than that description would suggest, and they've managed to become a phenomenon in their home country. Their albums have charted highly, and they've even opened for the Rolling Stones. Their second album, 2015's self-explanatory The Race for Space, was inspired by events ranging from the 1957 launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite to the final Apollo mission in 1972. Every Valley is another concept album, this time focusing on the rise and fall of the Welsh coal-mining industry. PSB committed themselves to the conception and production of this album even more than their past works -- they traveled to Ebbw Vale, a former steelworks town in southern Wales, and recorded in a building previously used as the convention center for a worker's institute. They interviewed citizens from the town, and some of the interview clips are even woven into the album's songs. Several guest vocalists and musicians appear, and most of them are of Celtic origin. The breezy single "Progress" features Tracyanne Campbell of Glaswegian indie pop legends Camera Obscura passionately declaring "I believe in progress" along with Kraftwerk-inspired vocoders and atmospheric synths. James Dean Bradfield of Brit-pop titans Manic Street Preachers adds a bit of bombast to the radio-ready "Turn No More," and singer/actress Lisa Jên Brown sings partially in Welsh on the sweet, tender duet "You + Me." As befits the theme, the album generally seems a bit more earthy than The Race for Space, which was more synth-driven and futuristic. Electronics are still present, of course, as are the group's signature samples, which are as sharply edited as ever. This time out, however, there's a greater presence of strings and horns, and much more of a crunch to the guitars on songs like "All Out." Even though the album is inspired by a particular period from the past, it's not an exercise in nostalgia -- the group intends to relate past occurrences with the events of the present day (particularly with the interview clips during "They Gave Me a Lamp"), and point toward the future. Even more so than on The Race for Space, PSB seem less like a gimmicky novelty group and more like a new breed of intelligent, socially conscious pop music.

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