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PJ Harvey is recording her new album at Somerset House

Posted at 11:00 am, January 2, 2015 in Arts & Entertainment, Music & Nightlife
PJ Harvey © Seamus Murphy

© Seamus Murphy

Do you mean Polly Jean Harvey MBE, Mercury Prize panel moistening, crow-feather bedecked alt-rock laureate of ‘Let England Shake’ fame?

The very same. Polly will be in London this month to record her new album. Yes, of course she’ll be making music but this latest recording project is very much ‘art’.

How so?

Because she is working with tirelessly innovative art producers Artangel. It has an arty title: ‘Recording in Progress’. And it will look like art. They’re building a studio in a specially designed room in the Inland Revenue’s former staff gymnasium and rifle range at Somerset House, giving you the chance to peer at Polly through one-way glass and listen in as she lays down new tracks.

Like Tilda Swinton in a box?

Cool ’90s reference! However, unlike Swinton in Cornelia Parker’s ‘The Maybe’, Polly won’t be caught napping. She will be hard at work, summoning the muse. Your visit might coincide with a new vocal, a discussion about a bassline with producer Flood, or a run-through of a complete song

Wait, the Inland Revenue used to have a rifle range?

Yes, but we’re not expecting a cover of ‘Taxman’.

Cool ’60s reference! Anything we won’t see?

Mustard. According to Polly’s friend, the artist Sue Webster, who has just released a cookbook featuring a poem by Harvey, poor Pol can’t stand the stuff. ’

I’ve got it, she chose Somerset House because she’s from Somerset?

Dorset, actually. But Harvey went to art college in Somerset, before turning down a place at St Martin’s to focus on her music career, so it’s a nice way of enmeshing her twin loves. As she recently told us: ‘I was looking for a space to record in London and knew I didn’t want it to be a conventional recording studio. I often go to see exhibitions and began to wonder if we could record in an art gallery – and if that were a possibility, then how we could be viewed by the public but at the same time have the space to record our music.’

She told you that?

Told us, told someone else and released it through a press agent, what’s the difference? We’re just giving you a heads-up because tickets are on sale now for 50-minute slots in the presence of one of this country’s most innovative singer-songwriters. Whether it’s art or not, it’s going to be amazing. Martin Coomer

‘PJ Harvey: Recording in Progress’ is at Somerset House. Jan 16–Feb 14. £15, £12 concs. Find out more at somersethouse.org.uk/recordinginprogress.

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