The live recording of PJ Harvey’s ninth album begins today (January 16) as part of an art installation at London’s Somerset House.
The project, titled ‘Recording in Progress’, has been conceived by Harvey herself and will take place inside a construction made of one-way glass that allows viewers to watch the singer and her band record. Fans attending the public recording sessions have been warned that the process is a “lottery” and they may spend their allotted time watching something as inconsequential as a bass guitar being tuned up. “I want ‘Recording In Progress’ to operate as if we’re an exhibition in a gallery,” Harvey previously said. “I hope visitors will be able to experience the flow and energy of the recording process.”
A review of the recording described one visit as such: “On arriving visitors are ushered down a corridor to the viewing space. It’s voyeuristic and thrilling at the same time. Dressed in black, the sapling-thin, 45-year-old Harvey looks porcelain-skinned and elvish up close, busy and deep in thought, unfazed by this new location that casts the mind back to the original Big Brother set.
“Producer Flood sits on a sofa, discussing the best way to achieve a sound with an engineer. Vintage wooden instruments, drums and a shiny trombone sit on stands beneath a sort of Harvey family crest that has been daubed on the wall.
“Hung around the viewing space, amid 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’.”
Tickets to the exhibition, which runs until February 14, sold out within an hour of going on sale.
The album, which will be produced by Harvey’s long-time collaborators Flood and John Parish, will be the 45-year-old’s first since 2011’s Mercury Prize winning ‘Let England Shake’. Harvey is also working on her first poetry book, The Hollow Of The Hand, which is due out this autumn.