PJ Harvey

Recording in Progress

Former Inland Revenue Rifle Range and Gymnasium, Somerset House, London
16 January 2015 - 14 February 2015
I hope people will see the attention and the labour and the care that goes into making a recording. I hope people will see the interactions between everyone involved. – PJ Harvey

In early 2015, PJ Harvey recorded her album The Hope Six Demolition Project as an exhibition at Somerset House.

Visitors saw and heard this process as Harvey, her band, producers and engineers worked together in a glazed studio installed at the centre of the space. For forty-five minutes at a time, groups of people experienced the crafting of a record, which could have been the laying down a bass drum track, a discussion amongst the performers, improvisation, through to full performances of new songs.

One-way glass and sound proofing ensured that the musicians could concentrate on their work, but the space – previously the Inland Revenue’s staff gymnasium and rifle range – and the people who moved through it helped to create both the process and presentation of this project.


Image: Cables, pedals and instruments including drum kit, saxophone, autoharp and ornate hurdy gurdy fill the pristine white recording studio at Somerset House, January, 2015. Photograph: Stephen White

Audio: The Hope Six Demolition Project

The Wheel | 5 minutes 38 seconds
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The Hope Six Demolition Project

Harvey's ninth album and her first UK number one album The Hope Six Demolition Project was released 15 April 2016. Every single track was recorded at Somerset House during Recording in Progress in front of a visiting audience.

The framing gave Harvey license to breach the four walls of her own perspectives and scrutinise her music as if from afar. The songs are intricate and embellished, employing the same palette of wailing riffs and chanted vocals that have been a feature of much of her post-2000s output. But they never chase their own tails or fully inhabit a reality of their own creation. – Ed Power, The Quietus

The Wheel, left, is also available to stream on Soundcloud, alongside selected other tracks from The Hope Six Demolition Project.

More information on purchasing the album.


Image: Album cover artwork © 2016 Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

Making Recording in Progress

PJ Harvey in conversation with Michael Morris
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You just go with the flow of what’s happening in the room that day, and I hope our visitors will too. I think what you will see is a process that has to be gone through. You have to go through dull moments to get to the goods. – PJ Harvey

Making Recording in Progress

PJ Harvey in conversation with Michael Morris


Michael Morris: Polly, I’d like to begin by asking you about the importance of place in your past albums and the role of place, both in the writing of your songs and where you choose to record them.

PJ Harvey: In terms of writing songs I’ve learnt over the years that it doesn’t really matter where I am. I wrote almost all of White Chalk, which is largely about the Dorset landscape, when I was living in LA at the top of a skyscraper amongst hard lines and glass. Maybe I was pulled back to the landscape because I was away from it. I don’t think that for writing it actually matters, because at that stage I’m exploring my imagination, and that can be anywhere. You carry that with you.

MM: I suspect that the creative process is something that emerges from within. So that makes sense to me, that the landscape where you grew up is inside you, it’s part of your inner world. So it doesn’t really matter if you’re in Iceland or in LA or in New York – you take the landscape with you.

PJH: Exactly...

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About PJ Harvey

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PJ Harvey

After completing an art foundation course, Polly Jean Harvey was awarded a place to study sculpture at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. At the very same time she was offered a record deal.

She decided in favour of music and her band – PJ Harvey – released a remarkable debut album, Dry, in 1992. It was acclaimed worldwide and in the US, Rolling Stone named Harvey “Best Songwriter” and “Best New Female Singer”. The only artist to have twice won the Mercury Music Prize, for Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea in 2001 and Let England Shake in 2011, after eight studio album releases, Harvey was awarded an MBE for services to music in 2013.

Long admired for her powerful lyrics, from the personal to the political, more recently Harvey has become known for her poetry, delivering her first public reading at the British Library in 2013. Though she never took up her place at Saint Martins, she continues to paint, draw and sculpt. Recording in Progress, conceived in collaboration with Artangel and Somerset House, marks a moment where these occupations collide and the process of album making becomes a public art installation.
 

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Images: Polly Jean Harvey at Somerset House, 2015. Photographs: Seamus Murphy

Production Credits

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Production Credits


Artangel

James Lingwood & Michael Morris, Co-Directors
Cressida Hubbard, Managing Director
Anna Larkin, Head of Communications
Nick Chapman, Communications Coordinator
Charmian Griffin, Producer, Digital
Maria Caroll, Head of Development
Danielle Sharma, Development Manager


Somerset House

Jonathan Reekie, Director
Charlotte Nimmo, Head of Live Events
Molly Rigg, Lead Project Manager, Live Events
Josephine Rodrigues, Head of PR
Francesca Hughes, Press Officer
Stephen Doherty, Director of Visitor Communications
Kirstin Hay, Marketing Officer
Mick Figg, Property Services Manager


Studio

Something & Son, Design
The White Wall Company, Build
Bowers & Wilkins, Loudspeaker supplier
Tickle Studios Ltd, Equipment installation
Charcoalblue, Acoustic consultants
Graphic design by Julia

Recording engineer: Rob Kirwan.
Assistant engineer: Cecil.


Musicians

Flood 
John Parish
Jean-Marc Butty 
Terry Edwards 
Enrico Gabrielli 
Mick Harvey
Alain Johannes
Kenrick Rowe
Mike Smith 
Alessandro “Asso” Stefana

Click here to read their biographies


Image: Michael Morris and PJ Harvey discuss the forthcoming project inside the space at Somerset House (2014). Photograph: Seamus Murphy

Press

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PJ Harvey’s Artangel project is a portrait, unedited and in real time, of its living subject behind the glass, lost in the music, self-absorbed, sometimes bored, coming in and out of focus, suddenly getting animated. – Adrian Searle, The Guardian

Selected Press

As a recording of the opening lyrics plays out across the gleaming white studio, Johnson begins to play the violin. “At the refreshment stand / a boy throws out his hand” goes the song. “As if to feed the starlings / but really he throws nothing.” Moments later, he is joined by Harvey herself on the violin, an instrument she later abandons in favour of a folk-favourite, the hurdy gurdy, while Parish plays the accordion and Edwards plays both the harmonica and the flute.  – Hannah Ellis-Petersen, The Guardian, 16 January 2015

 

I feel as if we've witnessed an unspoken understanding and camaraderie between the long-term friends and collaborators. When we buy music, there is a feeling of inevitability - that the songs were always meant to sound like that. Recording In Progress reveals all the tiny decisions and uncertainties that lie behind every fragment of the finished product - the forks in the road. There has been much speculation about how the musicians would behave differently or even perform differently when under observation but we do not see much evidence of self-consciousness creeping into the performances apart from a wry aside from Flood that "that was one of the most exciting moments in recording history!"  – Tim Fox, The Quietus, 19 January, 2015

 

Leaving the building I find myself humming “The Revolving Wheel”: At first it escapes subconsciously but then I find myself purposefully repeating it, wanting to prolong the experience. I can’t remember it any more. There is a strong chance of that track making it onto the new record but I’ll never hear what I heard today again because I witnessed something passing in real time. To PJ Harvey: “The best part of any creation is the creating itself. That is when it’s most vital, most exciting.” PJ Harvey has always been vital. The mark she leaves on this building is vital. The mark this building has left on us has been, will be and is vital. –  Lauren Down, The Line Of Best Fit, 17 February 2015

 

Album: The Hope Six Demolition Project

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The Hope Six Demolition Project

Audio CD £11.99 and LP £21.99 from Rough Trade

Download $9.99 from iTunes

Unswervingly political — Jess Denham, The Independent

PJ Harvey's ninth album was inspired by her travels to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington DC and forms a critique of current US government policy. Written over a two-year period and then recorded over several weeks at Somerset House as Artangel project Recording in Progress, its eleven tracks include The Wheel and The Community Of Hope.

The limited deluxe CD edition is housed in a six-panel digipak with Munken paper sleeve and a twelve-page booklet. The LP is heavyweight vinyl housed in a gatefold sleeve with a poster and download link included.


Released: 15 April 2016
Label: Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited under exclusive licence for the United States to Vagrant Records

Credits

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Who made this possible?

Credits

Commissioned and produced by Artangel and Somerset House with thanks to ATC Management and Island Records.

Artangel is generously supported by Arts Council England and the private patronage of the Artangel International Circle, Special Angels and The Company of Angels.


 

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