New Zealand's Aldous Harding came to prominence with her self titled debut from a couple of years ago - a word of mouth hit which showcased her ghostly laments and eerie torch songs. Well now she is back and she travelled all the way to Bristol to record it with PJ Harvey collaborator John Parrish. Perfume Genius lends a hand too. Nice.
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LP on 4AD + bonus indies only one-sided 7" of brand new track ‘Elation’. NOT SEALED.
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Bloody hell she's quiet. So the opening 'Blend' is nice, then. Her voice literally pours into my ears as if someone was pouring a honey concoction into them. That voice makes me want to bite into something. Her words are sparse over fingerpicked guitar, homemade percussion and weird whistling noises. That Knock Knock Knocking on Heavens Door riff gets re-badged on 'Imagine My Man' which is led by some Beatles-y piano and she is singing in a lower register here more marmalade than honey. What strikes me on initial listen is that she seems to sing in a different voice on each song. There's a versatile nature to her singing - the music isn't that different, generally based around beautifully fingerpicked guitar - but I can't get a handle on who Aldous Harding wants to be. The creepy 'Party' which is either love song or a tale of being abused - it's blurring the lines - is sung in a 'little girl' voice which has something of Bjork about it but the inflections are certainly a little too studied to create truly moving music.
If I knew who the real Aldous Harding was I might know which of the tracks are put ons. For now, the moments she is Nico such as on the beautifully sparse ''I'm So Sorry' are my favourite sections of the album. She's unafraid to throw curveballs into her music such as some ridiculous Kate Bush backing vocals or a sax solo. 'Horizon' is the only time she moves worryingly into Florence territory but that kind of histrionics is generally an anomaly.
The lack of a particular personality could be affecting my enjoyment somewhat. She needs to work through and fine her own distinct voice perhaps rather than trying on hats but this is good. No doubt about it.
10/10 Tim 1st June 2017
I first heard Aldous play the title track from this album back in 2015 in a small club in Geneva, (she said it was the first time she played it live) so I have been waiting a while to hear it on vinyl. As you might expect John Parish has done a fine job of the production which doesn't swamp the songs. It's a very fine album and gets better with every listen, making you fall for the bits that grated a bit the first time.
Aldous Harding won't be everybody's cup of tea, but I really like her. There is plenty of depth here. Bravo!
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