Soundscapes From Half a World Away | Public Symphony

“It’s not pretending to get people on the dance floor or anything like that. It really is about, for me, touching people, inspiring people.”

pub΄lic: a. serving the people
sym΄phony: n. harmony of sounds

Some things—the Titanic, New Coke, Elizabethtown—look better in theory than implementation. Once they’re made real, though, once they’re put before the people, they don’t always hold up. They don’t connect, don’t inspire; the people can’t relate.

The London duo known as Public Symphony perhaps shouldn’t work as brilliantly as it does. Born from a Brick Lane studio, the music manager (Dobs) and producer (James) came together to collaborate, to explore their songwriting synergy. Initially auditioning female vocalists, they never envisioned where they were headed until they realized they were already there.

“It was brilliant that I was managing James first,” reflects Dobs, “because I saw the worst of him and the best of him, and he saw the worst and best of me. But we knew each other really well by the time we started to write together.”

When they sat down to write (“The notes are mine,” says Dobs of the songwriting process. “James is more hands-on with the productions; he sort of sits in the director’s chair in the studio, and I sit in the back and make comments”), the two set the bar awfully high. Drawing on their inspirations—most notably, atmospheric Pink Floyd and early Genesis—and reacting to the recent resurgence of lo-fi recordings, the duo set out to craft a high-fidelity album. Once that sounded just as perfect on headphones as on the car stereo, every bit as symphonic through iPod ear buds as background party music.

“I definitely think there is room for a personal listen on this album,” says Dobs. “It’s not pretending to get people on the dance floor or anything like that. It really is about, for me, touching people, inspiring people.”

From the first note of their self-titled debut, this music’s different. Evocative, most definitely, conjuring images, scenic escapes, vast expanses of land and sky, bathed in sunlight. Dobs’ voice is smooth and rich, the music textured and soaring. If you weren’t a believer before listening, you are now.

“We wanted to make something impressive,” confesses Dobs. “It transports you into a soundscape. The lyrics are important to me, the overall journey.”

Uplifting, soulful, rejuvenating. In the wrong hands, any of these characteristics could be easily overblown. In the hands of such perfectionistic and experienced musicians/writers/producers/engineers, the results are staggering. Public Symphony is, without a doubt, one of the most magical things you’re likely to hear all year.

“I asked myself, ‘If I won the lottery what would I do?’” Dobs says. “And the way I would answer that is that I would go to the studio and make music. And about that time I just felt that that’s what I’m going to do. Whether I won the lottery or not, I would find a way.”

Perhaps even more astonishing is the fact that, in this world of test drives and trial runs, none of the material has been road-tested. This is a studio album if ever there was one. It’s been fluffed and fussed over. It’s been polished and perfected. But it’s never been played before a live audience. “We clearly intend to have a phenomenal show, with the emphasis on visuals and animation,” says Dobs. We want to present this in a slightly different way. Because of the lack of funding, we can’t actually deliver the show that we want to deliver at the moment, so we’re not trying.” When they do, though, it will be a full delivery of the album, from start to finish, one more avenue for this most perfect of listening experiences.

Public Symphony: It’s an aural adventure, a discovery waiting to be made.

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