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PJ Harvey|Is This Desire? - Demos (Demo)

Is This Desire? - Demos (Demo)

PJ Harvey

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On Is This Desire?, PJ Harvey challenged expectations with her most daring production choices yet -- which is saying something, given the abrasive sound of her breakthrough Rid of Me. Working once again with To Bring You My Love collaborator Flood, she went all in on that album's industrial and electronic flirtations, giving her rock a chrome-plated edge and surrounding her desolate ballads in atmospheres that echoed Tricky and Portishead. As Is This Desire? The Demos reveals, Harvey's initial sketches for the album were even more polarized in their dynamics and moods. The seething electronics on "Joy" are still startling in the low-res form they take here, while "The Wind"'s layered whispers are even softer, albeit less distant, than in their final incarnation. Though some of these recordings understandably feel unfinished, others gain surprising depth from a simpler approach. The tinny trip-hop beat and Harvey's raw vocals on "Angelene" have an appealing nakedness, but the demo of "My Beautiful Leah" shows the song needed the full studio treatment to become the industrial rock dirge it was meant to be. "The River" remains hauntingly beautiful with a few synths hinting at the scale of its final form; similarly, "The Sky Lit Up" remains electrifying stripped of its spacey keyboards. On the demo of "Is This Desire?," Harvey's voice is closer and more magnetic, underscoring that it would have been a highlight on any of her albums. As with her previous collections of demos, Is This Desire? The Demos unearths connections within her body of work. Filled with dark, grinding distortion, this version of "A Perfect Day Elise" emphasizes its links to To Bring You My Love tracks like "Down by the Water" and "Meet Ze Monsta." Likewise, Harvey's bruised soprano and the subdued melody of "The Garden" foreshadow White Chalk and Let England Shake, where she proved beyond a doubt that her hushed confessions could be just as compelling as her head-on confrontations. Starker yet somehow more fully formed than some of her other demo albums, Is This Desire? The Demos is an illuminating listen. Fans who were initially perplexed by Is This Desire?'s chilly aesthetic just might gain a fuller appreciation of the album through these versions of its songs -- and as always, it's fascinating to hear Harvey's original concepts.
© Heather Phares /TiVo

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Is This Desire? - Demos (Demo)

PJ Harvey

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1
Angelene (Demo)
00:03:38

Polly Jean Harvey, ComposerLyricist - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

An Island Records recording; ℗ 2020 PJ Harvey

2
The Sky Lit Up (Demo)
00:02:17

Polly Jean Harvey, ComposerLyricist - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

An Island Records recording; ℗ 2020 PJ Harvey

3
The Wind (Demo)
00:03:17

Polly Jean Harvey, ComposerLyricist - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

An Island Records recording; ℗ 2020 PJ Harvey

4
My Beautiful Leah (Demo)
00:02:01

Polly Jean Harvey, ComposerLyricist - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

An Island Records recording; ℗ 2020 PJ Harvey

5
A Perfect Day Elise (Demo)
00:03:11

Polly Jean Harvey, ComposerLyricist - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

An Island Records recording; ℗ 2020 PJ Harvey

6
Catherine (Demo)
00:03:35

Polly Jean Harvey, ComposerLyricist - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

An Island Records recording; ℗ 2020 PJ Harvey

7
Electric Light (Demo)
00:03:02

Polly Jean Harvey, ComposerLyricist - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

An Island Records recording; ℗ 2020 PJ Harvey

8
The Garden (Demo)
00:04:33

Polly Jean Harvey, ComposerLyricist - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

An Island Records recording; ℗ 2020 PJ Harvey

9
Joy (Demo)
00:03:01

Polly Jean Harvey, ComposerLyricist - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

An Island Records recording; ℗ 2020 PJ Harvey

10
The River (Demo)
00:04:53

Polly Jean Harvey, ComposerLyricist - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

An Island Records recording; ℗ 2020 PJ Harvey

11
No Girl So Sweet (Demo)
00:02:52

Polly Jean Harvey, ComposerLyricist - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

An Island Records recording; ℗ 2020 PJ Harvey

12
Is This Desire? (Demo)
00:03:02

Polly Jean Harvey, ComposerLyricist - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

An Island Records recording; ℗ 2020 PJ Harvey

Album Description

On Is This Desire?, PJ Harvey challenged expectations with her most daring production choices yet -- which is saying something, given the abrasive sound of her breakthrough Rid of Me. Working once again with To Bring You My Love collaborator Flood, she went all in on that album's industrial and electronic flirtations, giving her rock a chrome-plated edge and surrounding her desolate ballads in atmospheres that echoed Tricky and Portishead. As Is This Desire? The Demos reveals, Harvey's initial sketches for the album were even more polarized in their dynamics and moods. The seething electronics on "Joy" are still startling in the low-res form they take here, while "The Wind"'s layered whispers are even softer, albeit less distant, than in their final incarnation. Though some of these recordings understandably feel unfinished, others gain surprising depth from a simpler approach. The tinny trip-hop beat and Harvey's raw vocals on "Angelene" have an appealing nakedness, but the demo of "My Beautiful Leah" shows the song needed the full studio treatment to become the industrial rock dirge it was meant to be. "The River" remains hauntingly beautiful with a few synths hinting at the scale of its final form; similarly, "The Sky Lit Up" remains electrifying stripped of its spacey keyboards. On the demo of "Is This Desire?," Harvey's voice is closer and more magnetic, underscoring that it would have been a highlight on any of her albums. As with her previous collections of demos, Is This Desire? The Demos unearths connections within her body of work. Filled with dark, grinding distortion, this version of "A Perfect Day Elise" emphasizes its links to To Bring You My Love tracks like "Down by the Water" and "Meet Ze Monsta." Likewise, Harvey's bruised soprano and the subdued melody of "The Garden" foreshadow White Chalk and Let England Shake, where she proved beyond a doubt that her hushed confessions could be just as compelling as her head-on confrontations. Starker yet somehow more fully formed than some of her other demo albums, Is This Desire? The Demos is an illuminating listen. Fans who were initially perplexed by Is This Desire?'s chilly aesthetic just might gain a fuller appreciation of the album through these versions of its songs -- and as always, it's fascinating to hear Harvey's original concepts.
© Heather Phares /TiVo

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