The title of PJ Harvey’s new album may be “Let England Shake,” but the singer actually wanted to record it somewhere else.
“I had in mind to find a studio in Berlin, which sounded like a very exiting city, and I need to be inspired by the place I’m in when I record,” she says. “But I didn’t find what I was looking for, so I had been told of this desacralized church in England which is used for exhibitions.”
The church met all of Harvey’s qualifications for a perfect recording experience.
“It’s good to deal with a different environment,” she says. “An immersion in the unknown helps to open your eyes and to structure your mind.”
Long gone are the abrasive guitars that defined Harvey’s early work. “Let England Shake” is as elegant as anything she has ever released. It also has two qualities her material doesn’t usually possess — it’s at times buoyant and even topical. Harvey says this was a conscious choice.
“I’m very interested in politics, and in the news in general,” she says. “It’s the very first time I tried to write stuff that was directly connected to 2011. I didn’t feel confident enough before to do so. You know, writing is not natural to me. I’m groping about and I’m very critical with my work. It’s quite good in the end, since I’m happy only when I give the maximum.”
But the themes are broad enough that the album will be relevant long after the specific issues she’s singing about have faded from the headlines.
“For me, the beauty in the creating process lies in the transmission to someone who can use it afterward,” she says.