PAS Musique‘s follow-up to Abandoned Bird Egg is an intriguing foray into sound collage, with multi-faceted instrumentation welded to vintage scientific dialogue, culminating in a sense of World Fair wonder. If Public Service Broadcasting were more abstract, they might sound like this.
The world got its first taste of the album last year, when a remix of the title track was featured on a Wire sampler. That track, which launches the album, is a succinct summary of the quartet’s sound. In its current form, the track begins with a speaker introducing audio-visual equipment, then launches immediately into a morass of drone, drums, bagpipes and (light) female voice. The thickness of the piece is as close as one can get to the live experience, in which sight and sound are given equal weight. (The limited edition copy of the album also contains portions of Jim Tuite’s still art, which is integral to the shows.)
The beauty of the dialogue samples is their ability to contribute form to an album that might otherwise have seemed ethereal. The samples serve as a tether to the earthly dimension, which is somewhat ironic since they often refer to space. Since most of the tracks are short (4-5 minutes long), the reminders arrive frequently, grounding the listener who might otherwise drift into psychedelic rhythms and drown in swirls of smoke. The speech on “extraterrestrial signals” in “Listening to Interstellar Space” is one of the most effective, as the music sounds like something that might have come from another planet.
At its heart, the music is electronic, although it’s not always suitable to the dance floor. The first sign of overt bass arrives on “Ancient Evil Aliens,” which might lend itself well to slow tribal undulations. PAS Musique is more interested in the investigation of frequencies than with mass appeal, but they do know how to appeal to the masses – albeit on their own terms. It’s refreshing to encounter a band that touches upon accessibility from the experimental side, as a tonic to the many bands that touch upon experimentalism from the mainstream.
By “Molecular Vibration,” one begins to draw lines between the samples and sounds. The opening words explain how radio waves find their way to a house antenna. Once upon a time, this scientific achievement was a thing of wonder; the world seemed full of possibility, and announcements never failed to widen the eyes. Strangely, although the world seems more wondrous now (Apple watches!), our sense of wonder has diminished, as we have grown more jaded and expectant. PAS Musique is operating on a similar wavelength, attempting to restore surprise to sound. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 12 May