Bright Magic

Cat No: PIASR1230CDX

Public Service Broadcasting will release their fourth album, Bright Magic, on 24th September 2021 via Play It Again Sam. An album in three parts (Building A City / Building A Myth / Bright Magic), it is their most ambitious undertaking yet, bringing you to Europes heart and de facto capital, the cultural and political metropolis that is the Haupstadt of the Federal Republic of Germany Berlin.

Doing this felt inevitable, somehow, muses 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 its quite a personal story. Its become an album about moving to Berlin to write an album about people who move to Berlin to write an album¦

Though PSBs use of electronics and surging guitar rock remain familiar, Bright Magic uses samples, and the English language, sparingly. It differs from their previous albums in other ways: less linear and narrative, instead its an impressionistic portrait of a city from the ground up. A Eureka moment of sorts came in November 2018 when Willgoose heard Walter Ruttmans radical Berlin tape-artwork Wochenende (or Weekend), which is sampled on three of Bright Magics tracks. Created in 1928, the piece collaged speech, field recordings and music into a sonic evocation of the city. Resolving to integrate these long-gone fragments with new manipulated sound sources, he set about making his own Wochenende, a narrative drama for the ears which decodes and realises the dreams of Berlin hed constructed in his mind.

J.Willgoose, Esq. said I started to get a feeling for where the title of Bright Magic wanted to take me, towards ideas of illumination and inspiration, electricity and flashes of light and colour and sound (all the tracks would eventually be colour coded). I sent it to the rest of the band, and said, I know its going to change, but well see how the city itself colours that.

J.Willgoose, Esq moved to Berlin from April 2019 to January 2020. Combining sound archaeology and the flâneuring of the psychogeographer, one street-level pursuit of the citys energy involved Willgoose walking the Leipzigerstrasse, site of the citys first electric streetlight, using a wide-band electromagnetic receiver from Moscows Soma Laboratories. I walked up and down recording electrical currents and interference, he laughs. You can hear a few of these little frequency buzzes, clicks and impulses in Im Licht (a song inspired in part by pioneering lightbulb manufacturers AEG and Siemens). Its what I was trying to do in the wider sense, I suppose to capture those tiny little pulses you pick up while walking through a city.

He wrote and recorded in Kreuzbergs famous Hansa Tonstudio recording complex. This brought closer several inescapable musical touchstones: Depeche Modes classic eighties triumvirate, U2s Achtung Baby and, crucially, Bowies Heroes and Low. The whole shape and structure of the record is very much in debt to Low, says Willgoose. Indeed, the Warszawa-evoking The Visitor whose designated colour is the particular Orange of that albums sleeve was initially intended to feature a sample of Bowie reflecting, says Willgoose, on how he viewed himself as this vessel for synthesizing and refracting other influences, and presenting avant-garde influences to the mainstream. We tried to absorb a bit of that spirit.

As well as EERA, the albums other guest voices include Blixa Bargeld, veteran of The Bad Seeds and Einstürzende Neubauten, who becomes the voice of Berlins industry on the robo-teknik Der Rhythmus der Maschinen. Andreya Casablanca of Berlin garageistes Gurr stands in for Marlene Dietrich in My Blue Heaven, an anthem of proud self-determination.

A very pro-European record, Bright Magic is ultimately not just about one city, but all centres of human interaction and community which allow the free exchange and cross-pollination of ideas.


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Play It Again Sam