Wednesday, February 23, 2011

PJ Harvey's Horn

I really like PJ Harvey's new album Let England Shake. In my mind it is without question one of the best things she's done along in the last decade or so along with the severely under appreciated White Chalk and my personal favorite album of hers - Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea. I do feel the need to talk about a serious problem I have with a particular track from the new record though, "The Glorious Land." As many reviews of the album have mentioned already, it contains a sample of a calvary horn. Although the song itself is pretty outstanding, the sound of the horn nearly ruined this one for me. It isn't like anything I've really experienced on an album before now. To say it sounds "wrong" or out of place is the epitome of understatement. That reviewers so far have glossed over just how out of place it is concerns me. We aren't talking about a sample that fits flush with the song or even slips in and out of phase to establish a psychedelic effect. The way the horn is employed on this particular track reminds me of what would happen if I was playing the album in iTunes and had a window on my computer open with one of those pop-up ads that keeps blaring a sound effect or letting you know you've "won" some prize for visiting a site. In fact, the first time I heard it I had to shut down everything else around me and play the track again just to make sure it wasn't something else outside of the song I was hearing. It sounds weak, tinny, and more or less obscures everything else playing in the song when it comes in (which happens several times during the song).

Comments welcome from any and all who have heard the song and wish to chime in.


Nick said...

I agree. I tried to come to terms with the horns, but eventually realized that it just wasn't working.

My wife almost dismissed the album altogether because she heard this song before any of the others. The calvary horns were so intrusive that she didn't even last past the lengthy intro.

Collin said...

I think the horn is great, mostly BECAUSE at first it comes off as a really lazy/sloppy sample. But I like trying to unrecognize it. If you blur your ears it sounds like some sort of free jazz freakout.

Of course this might mean that on repeated listens it'll lose its appeal. But generally I think samples or familiar themes should be this dissociated from their original contexts.

Collin said...

Great blog, btw.

Ellie said...

I don't mind it :D though I was linked to this post by a friend who hates it.