PJ HARVEY - the wheel

04 Feb
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PJ Harvey has always been an artist who's created and delivered her work honestly and on her own terms, consistently driven by a desire to challenge herself, which in turn makes immersion in her art both rich and immensely rewarding. The strength of her soon-to-be nine album strong discography hinges on Harvey's ability to tap and harness her emotions in song – from her earlier material like the searing "Rub 'Till It Bleeds," to the softly strummed "The Desperate Kingdom of Love" (from 2004's Uh Huh Her, an LP on which she played all the instruments), to the often brittle brilliance of 2011's Let England Shake (for which she won her second Mercury Music Prize—the only artist to do so). At the top of last year, 3000 lucky ticket holders descended into the bowels of London's Somerset House to watch Harvey and her collaborators – namely producer Flood and John Parish – through a one way pane of glass. In collaboration with Artangel, the project was titled, Recording in Progress, and took place over a period of five weeks. Also frequently in the purpose-built studio documenting the entire process, photojournalist and filmmaker Seamus Murphy. Harvey first approached Murphy several years ago after seeing his 2008 exhibition A Darkness Visible, which chronicled his experiences in Afghanistan. This then lead to Murphy directing 12 short films for Let England Shake. We now know that the fruits of these "Recording in Progress" sessions have been collated for her opus, The Hope Six Demolition Project (out this April) – a clutch of songs directly inspired by Harvey and Murphy's travels to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington, D.C., all of which took place over a four year period. "When I’m writing a song I visualise the entire scene," explains Harvey. "I can see the colors, I can tell the time of day, I can sense the mood, I can see the light changing, the shadows moving, everything in that picture. Gathering information from secondary sources felt too far removed for what I was trying to write about. I wanted to smell the air, feel the soil and meet the people of the countries I was fascinated with." Many of the songs from The Hope Six… were given their first public airing back in October at London's Royal Festival Hall, performed against the arresting backdrop of Murphy's photos. And it's not the first time these particular travels have provided grist for her art: she poured her experiences not only into this new LP, but also her first poetry book, 2015's The Hollow of the Hand, her words here again complemented by Murphy's images. YouTube recordings from the Royal Festival Hall performance aside, on January 21st Harvey debuted "The Wheel," a bluesy maelstrom of brass, ferociously pounded drums, and insistent handclaps. She's echoed and responded to by an incantatory choir, her refrains of "and watch them fade out," as the song hurtles towards its close, are hypnotic and unsettling too.

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