The Glorously Bizarre World of Songs by Aldous Harding

If you’re not familiar with the weird and wonderful world of the New Zealand folk musician Aldus HardingFascinating music video of 2019 single “Barrel” probably the place to start.

The song is chirpy and light—lightly strumming acoustic guitar chords, a lively piano riff—but as the video progresses, a comforting feeling of uncanny creeps in. Something is going very lightly. Harding wears a plunging blouse with a cross-neck and a stovepipe straw hat, her shoulders slack and she makes a series of awkwardly expressive faces. It’s not very obvious at first, but you could swear his hat seems to be getting longer… with every cut? Therefore definitely longer, in a hilarious way – but just as it gets weird enough to laugh out loud, there’s a sudden interruption as Harding dons an eerie demon mask that takes his breath away. At any point, it may be tempting to ask, Why is that? But that would be the wrong question. There’s not much in Aldous Harding’s ludicrous, dreamy work. becausejust a bunch of glorious sliders is is.

Harding is often reluctant to explain what his songs are “about” and leans towards prismatic and evocative lyrics that welcome multiple interpretations. Still, midway through Friday’s enchanting fourth album “Warm Chris,” he encounters a refrain that, in a way, sounds like the mantra of his entire hilarious gripping piece: “Passion must play, or passion won” stay,” she sings cheerfully, piano-driven. “Passion Baby” In a loud, hoarse voice that made his voice sound like a wise child.

Sparse and gothic, even Harding’s early recordings sound bleaker. “Party” Since 2017, it has been animated with absurd moments of humor such as inconsistency. backing vocals It popped up out of the blue in song titles like “What if the Birds Aren’t Singing or Screaming.” Since her debut 2019 album “Designer” Yet Harding’s music is getting closer and closer to weightlessness. “Warm Chris” continues this progression, consisting of fragmented, airy pop songs and his third album, produced by PJ Harvey and collaborator John Parish. While it doesn’t sacrifice its signature, surrealist undertone, it’s the most agile album ever.

Harding’s voice is chameleon, and the variation in tone and timbre from song to song is one of the confusing pleasures of his music. “People ask me, ‘Why don’t you use your real voice?’ says,” he said. said in a recent Pitchfork interview. “But what people don’t understand is that I no longer know what my normal voice is.” On paper, Harding might be classified as another “female folk singer/songwriter”, but the breadth of her music and videos make this descriptor seem unbearably limiting. “Taking identity too seriously really hurts my music,” she added, during the writing process, which she describes as channeling monologues of various characters.

And so the vocal presentation throughout “Warm Chris” is far from predictable: plangent, plinking in a song “Future Around the Mountain” Harding sings with the high-pitched sharpness of “After the Gold Rush” era Neil Young, and then, “I’m looking at Henry Moore,” she is a lithe shanty performer in the style of Vashti Bunyan. The typical Harding song isn’t nearly as legible a narrative as a painting full of strange, unknowable characters posing in the middle of a fully performed scene, if never fully explained.

Much of this impact comes from Harding’s succinct, enigmatic and powerful words. This wasn’t always the case: on her self-titled debut album in 2014, she often used archaic words and knotty diction, as if she were trying to sound serious and poetic. But his writing greatly improved as he understood the power of simple, modern words arranged in unexpected ways. “Ah, dirty The emphasis on “Hot Chris” is muffled at the beginning of “Tick Tock” – a line that is both enigmatic and definitely lively.

perfect one “Fire,” A mid-paced number with spiky, stuttering steps features some of his most exciting lyricism ever. While too vague and fanciful to be reduced to a linear narrative, the song still loosely and poignantly demonstrates how hard a long-term partnership can be to work through: “I’m still looking at you in the dark,” Harding says. a low murmur, “I look for that excitement in anything.”

Getting the music this weird without being overly whimsical is a difficult move, and Harding’s legs shake frequently. (“She sings in “Passion Babe” (“She sings “Passion Babe” in “Passion Babe,” “she definitely takes the knife”).) But in essence, it’s Harding’s, like David Byrne’s big suit or David Bowie playing the clown. a fundamental eccentricity rooted in the avant-garde theater and folk music traditions, while maintaining a delightful sense of play.As with all of Harding’s best work, “Hot Chris” is offbeat, contagious, and ultimately liberating to stop being sensible. is an invitation.

Aldus Harding
“Hot Chris”

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