My introduction to the music of Polly Jean Harvey was through ‘The Dancer,’ the final track of her 1995 album To Bring you My Love. It was a desperate song– I almost felt shameful listening to it, as if I was imposing, listening in on something I shouldn’t be. It was her raw vulnerability, that sense that I was eavesdropping on the middle of a crisis that fused my ears to the rest of her discography. 

Choosing at random, I opted for her 2007 album White Chalk. Rather than the split-open lava of her 1995 release, White Chalk was a slow burner. On tracks like ‘Grow Grow Grow’ and ‘When Under Ether’ Harvey whispers her secrets to us, enveloping darkness into lullabies and woozy piano-based ballads. The songs speak to trauma and loss, in a voice that grows softer and more reserved as each track progresses. There couldn’t be a greater difference between the PJ Harvey of White Chalk and the Harvey of To Bring You My Love.

This is the key to Harvey’s music – she always plays characters, macabre ones, shy ones, brash ones. She burst onto the scene as the emboldened, crude Polly Jean, roaring at us in ‘Rid of Me; “I’ll make you lick my injuries / I’m gonna twist your head off, see.” On the album of the same name, PJ operates from a place of instinct; growling, shrieking. The entire album is an outburst, the result of holding back nothing.

No one could predict what forms this voice would take over the next few decades, packaged in synth-laden tracks, 4-track punk-inflected pieces, political songs written on the auto-harp. With PJ, you must always expect the unexpected. There is no ground she will not cover.

Written by DJ Phenomenology at KSDT.

The scene: high school prom. The location: Croydon, London. Rather than sultry suggestive slow dancing or cool-cat shuffling, all the bodies in the room are jerking, twisting, convulsing. That’s because the soundtrack to this moody night is the notorious sound of south London – dubstep. I’ve spent many nights moving counterintuitively to the screeching frequencies of this genre. Many happy mornings with my ears ringing as a result.

And yet there would be no dubstep, no soundtrack to my high school years, without the foundation of Garage music. The genre, birthed in the late 1990s in London’s club scene, often gets forgotten in wider music history. It’s easy to dismiss its chopped up drum breaks and pitched up vocals as basic staples of dance music, but we forget the radical shift these elements contributed to UK house music in general.

Admittedly I am biased, my early years were laden with the genre – my mother would play her euphoric house compilation which consisted of a series of garage classic remixes. And with So Solid Crew, Oxide and Neutrino, and Artful Dodger eventually taking over the scene, the genre was solidified in my eyes as one of the most unique, London-specific genres in dance music. Garage, as with most genres of music, is more than its beats and rhythms, but is a point around which we can navigate the entire culture of London and its relentless commitment to loudness, to shameless dancing, to putting the music before all else.

Garage may be undervalued, but its legacy continues on in the moments within modern music where we hear broken drum patterns, time stretched vocals, adrenaline-infused bass. For those of who have traversed London’s club scene, specifically overpaying for entry to Fabric on a Saturday night to hear some deafening grime and breakbeat, we have garage to thank.

Written by DJ Phenomenology at KSDT.