PJ Harvey reviews

PJ Harvey ‘Recording in Progress’ live reviews roll in...

PJ Harvey spent February recording her new album llve in front of an audience at London’s Somerset House. And that audience got to hear the whole process through Bowers & Wilkins loudspeaker. Now the reviews of this unique art/music project are in…

The press and an increasing number of members of the public have been to see artist PJ Harvey working on her new album. ‘Recording In Progress’, her collaboration with Artangel and Somerset House, will see Harvey entrenched in a one-way glass box inside an old gymnasium at the venue for the next few weeks, recording with her musicians and producers, including long-term collaborators Flood and John Parish. And now the press have given us a preview of the sold-out event. By its nature fragmentary, this is what they think so far…

The Arts Desk: “The musicians can’t see the spectators. The effect is startling, as there is, in spite of the soundproof double-glazing, an instant and surprisingly intimate feeling of connection. Polly and her recording companions are all wearing radio mics, so we can hear everything they say with great clarity… Flood plugs the tom-tom mics into a gizmo that produces a dub-like reverb, transforming the sonorous thud into something at once cavernous and ethereal. The song begins to take root, grounded in the magic and mystery that Flood has coaxed out of a few electronic toys. ‘It’s a whole different universe!’ Polly exclaims in wonder, taking up her guitar and starting to sing.”

Uncut: “The strength and clarity of Harvey’s vocal is uncannily consistent and, while she allows Flood to do most of the talking, her constant alertness, the way she turns precisely to look at whoever is talking, is striking.”

Digital Spy: “When Harvey sings… the viewing gallery suddenly hushes. There are surprising moments when your eyes meet with the singer’s, until you remember that she can’t see you. Hung around the viewing space, amidst towering Bowers & Wilkins speakers that pump the music, the coughs, the deliberations of the artists to the audience, are the lyrics to the songs that will be recorded. Spidery handwriting and crossed-out workings give clues to the new album’s themes, with titles like ‘Homo Sappy Blues’ and ‘Imagine This’… The song finishes and the urge to clap must be overridden. Was that a gig or an art installation? A birth? The boundaries are blurred.”

The Guardian: “We are free to wander, look, and listen as the speakers pipe in the sound… It is like watching zoo creatures. You want to poke them with a stick, make them do stuff, screw and eat each other.”

Time Out: “Something miraculous happens. Polly writes something down, puts on headphones, takes a sip of water and launches into the refrain of a beautiful new song… ‘all near the memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln,’ she repeats in her doleful descant. It’s transfixing, even when she messes up: ‘I forgot that bit’…”

NME: “The glass cube was also covered with handwritten lyrics for roughly 10 songs, which fans could peer at and read through the glass.”

Dummy: “Harvey was nodding back and forth as she listened back to a track… her ankle boots slowly stomping to the rhythm. The studio space was a sprawling array of red and black cables scattered around the floor, with clarinets, saxophones, and trumpets gleaming in every direction.”

The Quietus: “Our group’s 45 minutes has its own little narrative: the rehearsing and rehearsing of a few bars, a chord pattern, probably from a verse of one of the songs…”

DIY: “Harvey must have sung the words ‘what God gave you’ over two-hundred times during the session. If she’s not sick of that line by now, she’s superhuman.”

Creative Review: “The musicians slowly work together to develop a version of a song and what initially feels incomprehensible to the layperson – there is a lot of talk of tuning drums – suddenly emerges into a fully formed, and very beautiful, piece of music. The musicians seem excited about what they have accomplished and, somehow, we audience feel part of that experience too.”

The Guardian: “We heard quiet snatches of Harvey’s vocal and guitar part replayed from time to time, frustratingly elusive, as well as an actual blues recording that seemed to be a guide track. The repeated sax riff ended suddenly. All eyes looked at Harvey, who frowned and uttered the single word “So…”, beginning a sentence that we never got to hear. Silence fell. Our allotted time was up.”



  • Scott J says:

    Interesting project. Can you provide details on what speakers and amplifiers were used?

  • Scott says:

    Would love to hear a sample, how about making a single available via society of sound.

  • brock says:

    a beautiful accompanyment by industry of a truly awsome woman in music the journey of concerts is to her beefit and it sounds like the procession is a great one….

  • ALI says:

    Can you provide details on what speakers and amplifiers were used?

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