Several years ago, curious members of the public were afforded the chance to watch PJ Harvey record her follow-up to the Mercury Prize-winning Let England Shake in a specially constructed space that was part studio, part art installation. They looked on as Harvey pushed herself and her musical collaborators to translate experiences gathered on her travels to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington DC into songs that make up The Hope Six Demolition Project.
Director/photojournalist Seamus Murphy’s A Dog Called Money dispenses with the one-way glass separating Harvey from those peering in on her recording sessions, bringing the viewer one step closer to the artist at work and capturing the album’s emergence at close range.
The curious, ever-observant Harvey is depicted in war correspondent mode, journal never far from reach, as she seeks out sights to document, experiences to share, and fragments of melody to meld with her own. The ruins of a bombed-out Afghanistan building, a chronicle of racial divide in the US and encounters with unfamiliar melodies and instrumentation are just some of the keenly observed moments that become song here.
The journey these creative fragments take from origin to recorded destination is remarkable, as is the degree to which PJ Harvey alchemically combines patience, curiosity, experimentation, human connection, collaboration, and surprising joviality in bringing her deeply affecting work to fruition. Murphy illuminates the process without demystifying it, maintaining a sense of awe in Harvey’s work that’s commensurate with her uncanny musical abilities. — Steve Newall