White Chalk [VINYL] Maxi, Import
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Top Customer Reviews
Samuel Beckett (Company 1980).
....and here we have the voice of Polly Harvey. Stripped Bare.
Like the old woman in the rocking chair in Beckett's 'Rockaby';
alone listening to the cracked sound of her own voice.
Memory. Longing. Loss. Hope. Futility.
This is indeed a dark place but a place without artifice. The intimacy
at times almost unbearable.
These 11 songs are an extraordinary addition to Ms Harvey's canon.
Compressed, fleeting evocations; almost suffocating at times in their intensity.
The mood of the album is sustained throughout without respite.
Simple piano/guitar accompaniment, supported by uncluttered additional
instrumentation and vocals. The production unintrusive.
'Dear Darkness', 'When Under the Ether', 'Silence', 'The Piano',
and the superlative 'The Mountain' just some of the highpoints
in a work of claustrophobic genius.
A highpoint in the career of this hugely talented woman.
A small masterpiece indeed.
"And how better in the end labour lost and silence.
And you as you always were.
Samuel Beckett (Company 1980).
I thought her special brand of genius had been dulled but White Chalk is a return to total form and an utter joy.
Dry, Rid Of Me and Four-Track demos were three of my all time favourites but I haven't truly connected with anything of PJ's since then.
I'm not suggesting the last 4 albums were bad but, for me, they had lost the "edge" I really loved in her music.
Suddenly.....wallop....here is White Chalk. I first heard "When Under Ether" and "The Piano" on the radio without knowing who it was and fell in love with them almost immediately. Totally different and very much "out-there", this is quite a departure and all the better for it.
My joy is rekindled.
This album is exceptional.
I'm so very pleased :)
This time Harvey is seated at the piano and sings in fleeting songs (the whole album lasts less than 34 minutes) of loss, childhood, death, family and abortion, evoking a dusty atmosphere: "The devil wanders into my soul," she sings on the opener, and "Dear darkness, dear darkness, won't you cover, cover me - again?" on the next track. Broken Harp opens with a plea: "Please don't reproach me for how empty my life has become" while the title track sees her strolling in a desolate landscape, lonely and resigned: "Dorset's cliffs lead to the sea / Where I walked our unborn child in me". Families fall apart ("Daddy's in the corner, rattling his keys. Mummy's in the doorway trying to leave"); her dead grandmother is longingly apostrophed; and her mother is invoked to "teach me to grow".
Throughout Harvey sings in a higher register than usual, wailing and impaling herself in the highest reaches of her voice - childlike, fragile and introspective (an acquired taste it seems: some have hated her for this vocal change). The atmosphere feels naked and chilly, as if recorded in a dusty room lined with cobwebs and antique furniture, and recalls the ominous air of gothic novels like Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847). Even the cover, on which Polly looks like a Victorian governess in her puffed white dress and restrained pose, seems eerily reminiscent of a painting of another gothic hero: Edvard Munch's Puberty (1895).Read more ›
Yet ethereal is precisely what this album is. "When Under Ether" seems to recall an abortion endured semi-conscious while a child's life slips away into nothingness; in other songs she yearns for the companionship of the dead or or begs something unseen for forgiveness. She has "blood on her hands": the white chalk of her native Dorset hills sticks to her shoes. She laments her loss and pain like a banshee or a tragic Hardy heroine.
The haunting subject matter may be oblique to some, though the strange and swirling melodies and almost choral purity of her voice may bewitch those who have not encountered Harvey's music before. As an exploration of a particular kind of female agony, this set of songs is almost without parallel.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Vinyl comes without an instruction to play on 45rpm! Different from most of her other albums, more piano and vocals softer.Published 4 months ago by sfb
Light some candles. Turn off the lights and enjoy this truly original and haunting CD. P J Harvey at her very best. There is not a bad track. I highly recommend this CD.Published 7 months ago by Stephen Harper
With Let England Shake this is - in my opinion- the best PJ Harvey album. Shorn of the 'punky' elements of the earlier albums White Chalk is an album of dark, quiet beauty - one I... Read morePublished 16 months ago by C Gardhouse
Still love this album several years on. New one coming soon..........Published 18 months ago by 60 and counting
The music and arrangements are very good and different, but spoiled by the terrible way she uses her voice on these tracks.
A real shame!
This album proves yet again PJ can turn her hand to anything and make it work better than almost any other artist.Published on 18 Feb. 2014 by fall341