By Nick Argyriou.
PJ HARVEY – THE HOPE SIX DEMOLITION PROJECT (ISLAND RECORDS)
Five years on from the 2011 Mercury Prize-winning Let England Shake, the refreshingly unorthodox PJ Harvey, an artist with an innate ability to balance the tranquility of songbird Kate Bush with the alt-rock, art-punk nature of Patti Smith, keeps going next level with her craft.
Researching material for her ninth studio album by traversing across parts of Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington, D.C. between 2011 and 2014, Harvey takes a particular interest in examining the HOPE VI public housing issue in the US.
Highly social and political in her postulation, as we’ve come to expect, she places the spotlight on social cleansing, tyrannical development, capitalism and gentrification themes with these references rife throughout her latest opus.
Musically, variation and technique are keys to the arresting feel of The Hope Six Demolition Project with saxophone, percussive elements and interchanging backing vocals weaving hauntingly through Harvey’s own anguished plea.
Charging drums and a bullish narrative defines the record early on with ‘The Community of Hope’ and ‘The Ministry of Defence’ replete with distorted sax and Mick Harvey’s Taurus pedals while UK-based dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson steps up to the mic with the band leader.
On ‘A Line in the Sand’ Harvey works a prance into her vocal on a tragic war-torn ode, then ‘The Ministry of Social Affairs’ leads with Jerry McCain’s 1955 single ‘That’s What They Want’ before a sax-off between Harvey on tenor and c0-producer John Parish on Variophon resonates most.
Elsewhere the oppressive ‘Chain of Keys’ closes with a Gregorian chant before ‘The Wheel’ delves into late-90s Kosovo atrocities with lyrics and intent inspired from Harvey’s poetry book The Hollow of the Hand, that was also penned during the writing of The Hope Six Demolition Project.
Lyrically the record is fierce, sound-wise it’s deliberately jarring, but it’s everything and more that we demand from modern music.