One particular highlight for me and unquestionably many other music fanatics over the last month or so was the anticipation of beloved instrumental duo Public Service Broadcast’s newest studio release, ‘Every Valley’, which was officially released today and has already encountered a marginal scale of exciting responses due to the influx of worldwide distribution. Opening iTunes store and clicking ‘Purchase’ was a very magical moment for many of us.
‘Every Valley’ is indubitably their most detailed and involved concept album to date. Unlike ‘The Race for Space’, a grandiloquent space-opera, ‘Every Valley’ focuses on the hardships and adversity imposed upon Wales during the Industrial Revolution and its tumultuous effects upon the community due to the rise-and-decline of the coal industry. Musically it is clearly far less dance-oriented than ‘Inform-Educate-Entertain’ and it lacks the universal element of ‘The Race for Space’, instead aiming to focus on a particular set of ideas based upon this demanding and very limiting concept in terms of building scope upon. The duo recorded the album in Southern Wales.
It opens with the titular track which is an ominously brooding and moody event marked by the heavy usage of swirling string-synths and the familiar interpolation of samples from old radio broadcasts, seguing into ‘The Pit’, a percussive-driven song which undergoes a lot of tonal and tempo changes. The third track, ‘People Will Always Need Coal’ is where things start to take a slightly weaker turn. One will notice the track gradually meanders into wallpaper-music territory and certainly lacks the immediacy and hooks of what you will usually get from PSB. Luckily things start to take a more positive turn with ‘Progress’, the major single from the album and musically unlike anything they’ve really done before due to the fact that it features vocals and incredibly strong hooks, – making it arguably the most accessible song they’ve ever put to tape. ‘Go to the Road’ has flashes of redolence to their debut album due to it being a semi dance-oriented track with strong instrumental hooks. ‘All Out’ is indeed all-out to a certain degree as you see the group at their most aggressive and electric. ‘Turn No More’ is a highly disappointing follow-up which features guest vocals by James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers fame. The song is streamlined, over-saturated and very out-of-touch with the rest of the album. ‘They Gave Me a Lamp’ seems initially promising before managing to stoop yet again into muzak territory, however it seems to be one of the most popular tracks on the album for many.’You + Me’ is nice-enough for a ballad but the fact that it drags on for five minutes makes it virtually unlistenable and uninteresting. It is also very, very stripped-back for the group. ‘Mother in the Village’ is perhaps the most sample-oriented track on the album which eventually segues into closing track, ‘Take Me Home’, a two-minute piece consisting solely of vocal choir melodies.
Overall; – definitely an ambitious follow-up one would expect from the ever-expanding and creative music duo Public Service Broadcast. Unfortunately the album at times feels grimy and a little bit forced due to the concept’s quite provincial nature. I think they’re a group that base their songs around the tone of the subject matter as opposed to basing subject matter upon the tone of the song. While not as immediate and catchy as ‘Inform-Educate-Entertain’, nor as exciting and fun as ‘The Race for Space’, ‘Every Valley’ is an album that encompasses several moods that will interest existing PSB fans and ambient-music lovers.