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PJ Harvey|White Chalk - Demos (Demo)

White Chalk - Demos (Demo)

PJ Harvey

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When White Chalk was released, it provided another surprise for PJ Harvey fans. Its sparse, spectral songs were a far cry from the snarling rock and electronic experiments that came before them, and somehow White Chalk: The Demos is even wispier and more ephemeral. Often, it seems like Harvey might not have needed as many as four tracks to sketch the album's incantations and mood pieces. These recordings are dominated by her uncanny soprano vocals and piano with the occasional backing vocal or flute-like keyboard floating by; the most notable embellishment is the echo she uses to wonderfully ghostly effect on the title track. If White Chalk: The Demos is missing some of the studio magic that Harvey concocted with longtime collaborators Flood, John Parish, and Eric Drew Feldman, the collection makes up for it in intimacy. Being close enough to Harvey to hear her press the piano's pedals heightens the feeling that she recorded these songs in a haunted drawing room filled with flickering candlelight. More so than on the finished album, "Dear Darkness" resembles a whispered prayer; "Grow Grow Grow" becomes a seance; and "Broken Harp"'s atonal anguish takes on a field recording-like rawness. Stripping away some of White Chalk's atmosphere underscores just how good the bones of its songs are. Without as many sounds surrounding them, the album's tales of mortality, betrayal, and isolation often feel more present, whether they're plaintive moments like "When Under Ether" and "To Talk to You" or the intense foreboding of "The Mountain." As with Harvey's other demo collections, the primeval form of White Chalk makes the ties between her albums more apparent. It's easier to hear how some of the spookier moments of Uh Huh Her and Is This Desire (as well as the mythical storytelling of Dry and To Bring You My Love) relate to these songs, and in turn, how White Chalk's dreamy Englishness foreshadowed how she explored her complex relationship with her homeland to great acclaim on Let England Shake. While the distinctions between the studio and demo versions of White Chalk are often subtle, the nuances in mood and meaning make for gripping listening. White Chalk: The Demos may cast a different spell than the finished album, but it once again makes a strong case for hearing Harvey's songs in the raw -- and for her ability to take her art in so many various yet cohesive directions.
© Heather Phares /TiVo

More info

White Chalk - Demos (Demo)

PJ Harvey

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1
The Devil (Demo)
00:02:38

John Parish, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, Recording Engineer, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel, ComposerLyricist - Jason Mitchell, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Sumit Bothra, Producer, Executive Producer

℗ 2021 PJ Harvey

2
Dear Darkness (Demo)
00:03:09

John Parish, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, Recording Engineer, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel, ComposerLyricist - Jason Mitchell, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Sumit Bothra, Producer, Executive Producer

℗ 2021 PJ Harvey

3
Grow Grow Grow (Demo)
00:03:22

John Parish, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, Recording Engineer, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel, ComposerLyricist - Jason Mitchell, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Sumit Bothra, Producer, Executive Producer

℗ 2021 PJ Harvey

4
When Under Ether (Demo)
00:02:25

John Parish, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, Recording Engineer, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel, ComposerLyricist - Jason Mitchell, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Sumit Bothra, Producer, Executive Producer

℗ 2021 PJ Harvey

5
White Chalk (Demo)
00:03:44

John Parish, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, Recording Engineer, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel, ComposerLyricist - Jason Mitchell, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Sumit Bothra, Producer, Executive Producer

℗ 2021 PJ Harvey

6
Broken Harp (Demo)
00:02:00

John Parish, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, Recording Engineer, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel, ComposerLyricist - Jason Mitchell, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Sumit Bothra, Producer, Executive Producer

℗ 2021 PJ Harvey

7
Silence (Demo)
00:02:46

John Parish, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, Recording Engineer, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel, ComposerLyricist - Jason Mitchell, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Sumit Bothra, Producer, Executive Producer

℗ 2021 PJ Harvey

8
To Talk To You (Demo)
00:04:24

John Parish, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, Recording Engineer, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel, ComposerLyricist - Jason Mitchell, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Sumit Bothra, Producer, Executive Producer

℗ 2021 PJ Harvey

9
The Piano (Demo)
00:02:41

John Parish, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, Recording Engineer, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel, ComposerLyricist - Jason Mitchell, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Sumit Bothra, Producer, Executive Producer

℗ 2021 PJ Harvey

10
Before Departure (Demo)
00:03:38

John Parish, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, Recording Engineer, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel, ComposerLyricist - Jason Mitchell, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Sumit Bothra, Producer, Executive Producer

℗ 2021 PJ Harvey

11
The Mountain (Demo)
00:03:08

John Parish, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - PJ Harvey, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, Recording Engineer, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel, ComposerLyricist - Jason Mitchell, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Sumit Bothra, Producer, Executive Producer

℗ 2021 PJ Harvey

Album Description

When White Chalk was released, it provided another surprise for PJ Harvey fans. Its sparse, spectral songs were a far cry from the snarling rock and electronic experiments that came before them, and somehow White Chalk: The Demos is even wispier and more ephemeral. Often, it seems like Harvey might not have needed as many as four tracks to sketch the album's incantations and mood pieces. These recordings are dominated by her uncanny soprano vocals and piano with the occasional backing vocal or flute-like keyboard floating by; the most notable embellishment is the echo she uses to wonderfully ghostly effect on the title track. If White Chalk: The Demos is missing some of the studio magic that Harvey concocted with longtime collaborators Flood, John Parish, and Eric Drew Feldman, the collection makes up for it in intimacy. Being close enough to Harvey to hear her press the piano's pedals heightens the feeling that she recorded these songs in a haunted drawing room filled with flickering candlelight. More so than on the finished album, "Dear Darkness" resembles a whispered prayer; "Grow Grow Grow" becomes a seance; and "Broken Harp"'s atonal anguish takes on a field recording-like rawness. Stripping away some of White Chalk's atmosphere underscores just how good the bones of its songs are. Without as many sounds surrounding them, the album's tales of mortality, betrayal, and isolation often feel more present, whether they're plaintive moments like "When Under Ether" and "To Talk to You" or the intense foreboding of "The Mountain." As with Harvey's other demo collections, the primeval form of White Chalk makes the ties between her albums more apparent. It's easier to hear how some of the spookier moments of Uh Huh Her and Is This Desire (as well as the mythical storytelling of Dry and To Bring You My Love) relate to these songs, and in turn, how White Chalk's dreamy Englishness foreshadowed how she explored her complex relationship with her homeland to great acclaim on Let England Shake. While the distinctions between the studio and demo versions of White Chalk are often subtle, the nuances in mood and meaning make for gripping listening. White Chalk: The Demos may cast a different spell than the finished album, but it once again makes a strong case for hearing Harvey's songs in the raw -- and for her ability to take her art in so many various yet cohesive directions.
© Heather Phares /TiVo

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