This is PJ Harvey’s tenth studio album. It is extraordinary. It is unique.
Her acclaimed literary excursion the long form poem Orlam of 2022 was eight years in gestation and is the Rosetta stone for the complex and at times difficult to comprehend lyrics that underpin this fragile work. It will really help your understanding of the work if you are familiar with Orlam.
The words delve deep into the natural world and utilize the Devon dialect to great effect.
This album is born of Orlam. It is a continuation in sound of PJ Harvey’s inspirations. But it is not a rock album (whatever that is). It is more a folk album for now, an album that inhabits the natural world, the forests, the seasons, the flora and fauna of Albion (with added Elvis Presley).
The music takes not so much a back seat, more a pleasant companion in the passenger seat. It is restrained and somewhat muted, as if to emphasize the subject matter. It’s an album to be heard in its entirety. All twelve tracks flow together as one.
I suppose it’s nearest comparison is White Chalk ( 2007). That proved divisive amongst fans, I fear this one will as well, there is not one angry guitar chord on the entire album, admittedly a little feedback and slight abrasion on the closing track A noiseless noise, but that is the exception.
It is not initially an easy listen , neither an immediate one but once it permeates your mind it refuses to leave. On a personal note it took me four listens and on the fourth I was shedding a tear.
Polly’s subtle vocal acrobatics and delivery are sublime, it’s hard to believe that this is the same woman who gave birth to Rid of Me and Dry, the years have disappeared but she continues to explore and excite.
by John Haylock