Public Service Broadcasting – ‘Bright Magic’ album review

Public Service Broadcasting Bright Magic 2021 album review

After looking back at some of the human race’s finest achievements, blasting off to the moon and examining the rise and fall of the British coal industry, Public Service Broadcasting head to Berlin on fourth album ‘Bright Magic’. ‘Doing this felt inevitable, somehow,’ muses PSB’s auteur J. Willgoose, Esq. ‘In my head, it was whirring and pulsing away for a long time, even before ‘Every Valley’ – this fascinating, contrary, seductive place. I knew the album was going to be about the city, and its history and myths, and I was going to move there. So it’s quite a personal story. I’ve said this a lot: it’s become an album about moving to Berlin to write an album about people who move to Berlin to write an album…’

Separated into three parts (‘Building a City’, ‘Building a Myth’, ‘Bright Magic’), this album offers an absorbing overview of an incredible city – and others like it – complete with samples from ‘Wochende’, a 1928 tape recording by Walter Ruttman that blends speech, field recordings and music together. After hearing this, J. Willgoose, Esq decided to make his own version that sums up the state of the modern world.

‘Der Sumpf (Sinfonie der Grossstadt)’ opens the album with a breezy blast of birdsong, feedback and distortion that evolves into some Eno-esque electronica before ‘Im Licht’ veers into gloriously technicolour electro pop – complete with synthesised vocals and deep bass. ‘Der Rhythmus der Maschinen’ features Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld on guest vocals, delivering a hair-raising speech in German against a ferociously industrial backing while ‘People, Let’s Dance’ is an upbeat piece that captures the free-spirited and open nature of the city. Inevitably, David Bowie’s ‘Low’ is a huge influence on the album and we’re wondering if this title is also a reference to him?

Recent single ‘Blue Heaven’ is a hit from its very first note with Andreva Casablanca’s potent vocals beautifully complementing the melodic Broken Social Scene-esque guitar work and frantically increasing tempo. It’s refreshing, vibrant and the kind of song that can’t fail to life your spirits – just like the famous Berlin club scene that inspired it. ‘Gib Mir das Licht’ is a slower yet powerful piece and ‘The Visitor’ signals a change of pce into something more cinematic – albeit with a space-aged tinge. The three largely instrumental ‘Lichtspiel’ songs – ‘Opus’, ‘Schwarz Weiss Grau’ and ‘Symphonie Diagonale’ – are inspired by ‘visual music’ films from the 1920s and are all atmospheric and absorbing – throwing in everything from crashing drums to crystal clear piano notes and moments of post-rock twinkle.

The closing ‘Ich und die Stadt’ finds Homeland and A Most Wanted Man actress Nina Hoss delivering a speech against stirring yet experimental tones that leave quite an impression… Yet again, Public Service Broadcasting have done it – ‘Bright Magic’ is a record that will lighten up your listening while leaving you amazed. It’s a fitting title.

Public Service Broadcasting live:

(Tickets are available HERE)


Sun 24 Cardiff University Great Hall                              

Mon 25 Brighton Dome                                          

Tues 26 Bristol O2 Academy                                                

Wed 27 Exeter The Great Hall                                              

Thurs 28 Southampton O2 Guildhall                                  

Sat 30 Aylesbury Friars Waterside                                              

Sun 31 Birmingham O2 Institute          


Mon 1 Leeds O2 Academy

Tues 2  Llandudno Venue Cymru                   

Thurs 4 Manchester O2 Apollo                                  

Fri 5 Newcastle O2 City Hall                                      

Sat 6  Aberdeen Music Hall                                

Sun 7 Glasgow Barrowland                                  

Tues 9 Nottingham Rock City                                  

Wed 10 London O2 Brixton Academy                          

Thurs 11 Cambridge Corn Exchange


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