PJ Harvey is creating her hugely-anticipated ninth album in a multi-dimensional sound sculpture at Somerset House until February 14.

PJ Harvey is creating her hugely-anticipated ninth album in a multi-dimensional sound sculpture at Somerset House until February 14.

As we entered the cavernous space transformed by architectural practice Something & Son for this installation, I knew we were about to experience something incredibly special.

Hung around the room were lyrics to the songs PJ Harvey – aka Polly Jean – has been creating in this intimate environment for her as-yet untitled ninth album. One day they’ll be fully produced tracks, right now, they’re just illegible scrawls.

Each group of lucky ticket-holders are allowed 45 minutes inside this bell jar. Polly Jean was dressed entirely in black, the centre of attention in a startlingly intimate tableau in which the audience could see everything, and the musicians could see nothing.

The song we saw being created was called ‘The Ministry of Defence’ – possibly alluding to another politically fuelled album similar to Harvey’s 2011 masterpiece Let England Shake? Other titles around the room were ‘River Anacostia’, ‘Line in the Sand’, ‘The Ministry of Social Affairs’ and ‘Age of the Dollar’.

Although at times it was difficult to hear, Harvey’s powerful voice was as potent as ever. It was interesting to observe how each musician worked in the studio, knowing that they couldn’t see us. Harvey said: “I don’t want us to be overly self-conscious of people coming in because I want the audience to see us at work, and for the work to be viewed. I like that idea of the vitrine; that you’re looking into a glass display case at a record being made.”

Others present in the room were Harvey’s band and her producers Flood and John Parish – both long-term collaborators. Members of Harvey’s band include renowned Bad Seeds member Mick Harvey and musical director and multi-instrumentalist Terry Edwards. At one point, Mike Smith (Damon Albarn collaborator) managed to play two saxophones at once – an impressive feat.

Suddenly silence fell, and no one moved. The audience seemed too encapsulated by the white box in the room to realise we had to leave, or even that the music had disappeared. We slowly left the room, still unsure what we’d experienced.

The project is a collaboration with London-based arts organisation Artangel, who had this to say about it: “Artangel is honoured to be working with PJ Harvey, one of the world’s leading contemporary voices, on an unprecedented experiment. The working process of a project has always been as important to us as its public presentation and here both can be fully explored and revealed at the same time.”

Recording in Progress takes place from January 16 – February 14. PJ Harvey’s first collection of poetry, The Hollow of the Hand, a collaboration with the photographer Seamus Murphy, is out later this year.