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PJ Harvey 

White Chalk

Published November 01, 2007.PJ HarveyWhite ChalkUniversalWhite Chalk is unlike any other PJ Harvey disc. It is darker, sparser and eerier, like a gloomy ride through a Victorian countryside. Harvey sings in a high register and primarily plays the songs on the piano without picking up an electric guitar. There is no blues-driven punk. The album is rounded out with quiet songs---beauty as seen through the eyes of Harvey. The lyrics are haunting and morose and the disc’s vibe is chilling. In a sense the CD is gothic, but not Bauhaus gothic---more in the way Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” is gothic. The recording and production feel extremely old and very British, drawing on the British folk idiom. This eccentric mixture fills every pore of the album. While some fans may feel alienated by this sound, this record is definitely a magnum opus. From the simple piano riff on “The Devil,” to the shriek that ends “The Mountain,” the experimental closing song, Harvey creates a challenging and daring work. Not only does White Chalk seem to be Harvey’s most personal

release yet, it stands alongside other stark masterworks including Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, Lou Reed’s Berlin, Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate and Elliott Smith’s Either/Or. White Chalk isn’t Harvey’s most accessible release, but it stands on its own merits as one of her finest.
Trevor MacLarencategories: Coast pick

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