PJ Harvey is back later this year with the new album The Hope Six Demolition Project. And like her 2011 album Let England Shake, the new single “The Wheel” is consumed with ideas and images of wartime. On that last album, Harvey worked a bunch with battlefield photographer Seamus Murphy, and now he’s directed her video for “The Wheel,” which he filmed in Kosovo, the site of some terrible ethnic violence in the late ’90s. Harvey visited Kosovo in 2011, and the video captures her there, as well as in her London rehearsal space. And it also has images from a more recent visit that Murphy made last year. It shows a devastated nation and shows all these intriguing images of what life is like there now. Below, watch the video and read some words about it from Harvey and Murphy, via Noisey.
In a statement to Noisey, Harvey says:
When I’m writing a song I visualize the entire scene. 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.
Meanwhile, Murphy wrote a much longer piece about both the song and the video. Here’s a part of it:
The song “The Wheel” has the journey to Kosovo at its center. Who is to say what else has influenced and informed its creation? The sight of a revolving fairground wheel in Fushe Kosove/Kosovo Polje near the capital Pristina is the concrete reference point for the title. I can tell you its date — 4th August 2011 — from the piece of footage I made as we walked up the street to our parked car near the train station. It was a passing observation of a commonplace image, one of many that day. While Polly took notes I might have been more interested in something else happening across the street and not bothered to shoot or even have seen it. That day we were gathering material in a blind, optimistic endeavor; characteristic of the way we tend to work together. We had no idea if any of it would ever be seen, heard or would make sense.
Was that sight alone the inspiration for the song? Without being told the stories of people who had suffered during the war, without visiting villages abandoned through ethnic cleansing and cycles of vengeance, without experiencing the different perceptions of people with shared histories, could the song have been written?