PSB oft feel like an education in history through their releases alone. 2013’s debut album Inform-Educate-Entertain used archival samples from the British Film Institute as audio-portals to the Battle Of Britain, the summit of Everest and beyond. In 2017 they were joined by voices including Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield, Every Valley was a moving exploration of community and memory via the rise and fall of the British coal industry. This approach has not changed with their new release; Bright Magic brings us back to the Federal Republic of Germany – Berlin. Similarly collaborate, this LP conveys the culture and the people of the city, impressionistically.
After the release of J Willgoose Esquire’s delicate yet hopeful LP during lockdown, this is somewhat of a surprise and maneuvre away from A Wonderful Hope, back towards an industrial and sonically electronic cosmos. Though PSB’s use of electronics and surging guitar rock remain familiar, Bright Magic uses samples, and the English language, sparingly. Walter Ruttmann’s radical Berlin tape-artwork Wochenende (or Weekend) is sampled on three of Bright Magic’s tracks, and has been a significant influence on this album. Using a similar attitude to this LP, this album is certainly less linear and more experimental in it’s compilation than previous PSB albums.
He wrote and recorded in Kreuzberg’s famous Hansa Tonstudio recording complex, having been tipped off that a space was free by Manics producer Alex Silva. This brought closer several inescapable musical touchstones: Depeche Mode’s classic eighties triumvirate, U2’s Achtung Baby and, crucially, Bowie’s Heroes and Low. Guest voices include Blixa Bargeld, severe veteran of The Bad Seeds and Einstürzende Neubauten, who becomes the voice of Berlin’s industry on the robo-teknik Der Rhythmus der Maschinen. It’s hardly surprising that Bright Magic feels immersive, and the lights, the smells, the flavours, are all almost in reach when listening to the LP.
With an album of PSB fan pleasers, there are two in particular that are sonically wonderful and personal stand outs. People, Let’s Dance, which is voiced by Berlin-based musician EERA, with a re-played interpolation from Depeche Mode’s People Are People, opens up another aspect of Berlin as a long-established free zone for pleasure, art and expression. And I think it’s safe to say we are all there with EERA. Blue Heaven is an indie anthem with the predictable samples. Featuring Andreya Casablanca of Berlin garageistes Gurr, Blue Heaven conveys a level of proud self-determination, perhaps stubbornness with its lines, “They call me a traitor / They spit in my face” and has it bowled over with that lovely riff.
For the fans of the Berlin music-scene, Bowie and Kraftwerk, PSB’s followers will be overjoyed with this new offering. With more variety, surprise and a wide pan of the city there is much to suit many with this brilliant LP. I will be on the hunt for the live shows.
Bright Magic is out on 24th September via Play It Again Sam. You can pre-order it here
Photo courtesy of Alex Lake