The sophomore album from Public Service Broadcasting sees them tell the tale of the space race between Russia and America between 1957 and 1972. Following their usual model of using historical soundclips, they play the two sides off against each as they reach epic and sometimes tragic milestones, from the launch of Sputnik, to the death of the 3 Apollo 1 astronauts, to the first spacewalk and ultimately the moon landing. According to the sleevenotes they used different mixing techniques and even a different drum kit to record each nation's tracks, and in doing so they've successfully managed to give a different feel to the CCCP and the USA.
The record does feel like a development for the band and a step forward for them. With an act like this who are so dependent on the recorded clips there was a risk that the songs could become very formulaic and repetitive, but here they've developed new sounds and new ways of working. The first two tracks are probably the most diverse, moving from the heavenly choir on the title track to the funked-up "superhero theme tune" of 'Gagarin'. Later on they enlist the help of Smoke Fairies on 'Valentina' to bring a female perspective to the story of the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova. Meanwhile 'Go' is a fantastically energetic and joyous retelling of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.
For me the most impressive thing about this album is how they've managed to convey both the emotion and majesty of the space programmes, and also managed to inject a tinge of sadness that it all came to such an abrupt and disappointing ending. To send a manned to the moon with less computing power than there is in a modern-day iPod is a phenomenal achievement, and you have to wonder where we could be now if the two nations had pooled their resources and worked together to develop an ongoing and sustainable space programme.
If you haven't seen the brilliantly fun video for 'Gagarin' then you should go here to watch it. And you can get a free remix of that track from this page on my blog.