PJ Harvey is recording her next album in public behind one-way glass at London’s Somerset House in an exhibition titled Recording In Progress. The sessions began today, and reports from the first 45-minute viewing window indicate Harvey worked with Flood and John Parish on a song called “Near The Memorials To Vietnam And Lincoln.” Presumably it was written during Harvey’s visit to Washington, DC that also inspired some poetry in her upcoming book, so maybe there’s a connection between the poetry collection and the album? According to NME’s report, “Harvey did not sing during this first session, but played violin, harmonica and hurdy-gurdy.” Also, “The glass cube was also covered with handwritten lyrics for roughly 10 songs, which fans could peer at and read through the glass.” Here’s an excerpt from Time Out London’s report, which mentions that attendees at the sold-out exhibition have to leave their cell phones at the door:
In fact, after the initial rush of seeing the captive star up-close, it soon starts to feel conventional. Not boring conventional. After all, this is Polly Harvey sharing her creative process with you and even showing off her artwork (some of Harvey’s drawings are on display, along with what looks like a hand-drawn family crest). But the promised “architectural installation” is really just a room within a room. It’s clear she’s here to work.
And then 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, recognisably from the same mould as the war-scarred soundscapes of Let England Shake: “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,” she says apologetically.
Sounds like a recording session! Somerset House also tweeted a photo of the doorway to the exhibition, which looks very fancy and museum-like, and the above program was distributed at today’s event.
— Somerset House (@SomersetHouse) January 16, 2015