PJ Harvey began the publicly-attended ‘Recording In Progress’ sessions for her upcoming ninth album this afternoon (January 16) at London’s Somerset House.
NME spoke to some of the first batch of fans to attend the sessions, which saw Harvey working inside a one-way glass box. During the 45-minute slot, Harvey worked with producers Flood and John Parish on a track apparently called ‘Near The Memorials To Vietnam and Lincoln’. Harvey did not sing during this first session, but played violin, harmonica and hurdy-gurdy.
“The majority of the track had already been recorded – we saw violin being recorded over aspects of it,” said Jacob, 21, from London, who commented that the songwriter displayed a “dignified calmness”, adding: “She was looking very stylish – she was dressed all in black and wearing thin suit trousers”. The glass cube was also covered with handwritten lyrics for roughly 10 songs, which fans could peer at and read through the glass.
Mattia, 25, from Poland said that the music being created was “really similar to her previous album [‘Let England Shake’]. I thought maybe she would have changed her style, but she didn’t. You felt like you were in the studio.”
“It was like a gallery or art installation, rather than going to see a performer,” explained Anna, 34, from Catford. “People were a little more mindful. It was a unique experience.” Roughly 25 to 30 people were in the room for the timed session and fans were able to buy a signed poster commemorating the event for £25.
As of today, more members of the public will be able to watch in 45-minute windows as Harvey records the LP at Somerset House in London. The project has been conceived over the past year by Harvey alongside collaborators Artangel.
Speaking previously about the project, Michael Morris, the co-director of Artangel, commented: “Polly’s approach to songwriting and making films is very much like that of a visual artist and we got talking about how the process of making a record could be displayed rather like an exhibition and what that might feel like.”
He added that the project veered into unchartered ground for both the artist and the arts organisation: “The truth is none of us really know what it will be like. Polly doesn’t know. We don’t know. We think we have an idea but I suspect we’ll be surprised when it unfolds. It is uncategorisable.”
The sold out event runs until February 14.