New releases from Aldous Harding, Lord Echo, Jane Weaver and !!!, plus a selection of private-edition work by the late Alice Coltrane.
Aldous Harding’s art is a heart-in-mouth experience.
REVIEWS — GARY STEEL ALDOUS HARDING PARTY (FLYING NUN)
When this reviewer interviewed Aldous Harding in 2014, she was still a more-or-less nobody from Lyttelton with a freshly minted first album of singular beauty and deep imagery that suggested a deeply troubled young woman.
She told me that her attendance record at high school had been appalling, because she’d spent so much time curled up in bed staring at walls.
Later, she explained how the singing of her first songs was a kind of emotional therapy: “There was a time when I used to listen to myself singing them and think, ‘I’m not going to make it, am I? This is some dark stuff!’ But they don’t frighten me any more.”
Clearly, Hannah Harding (the name given by her mother, folk singer-songwriter Lorina Harding) sees the world through a splintered lens, embedding in her songs an intensity that requires not just the usual storytelling contrivances of the folk idiom, but a method-actor’s skills. While that first, self-titled, album was a striking work in which Harding used her extraordinary vocal intonation to transform herself into some kind of imagined doomed waif, its follow-up three years later is such a progression that it feels as if we’ve missed some steps along the way.
That fragile, plaintive voice only occasionally peeps through the curtains. Instead, there are voices, plural, and if anything, they’re even more intense, and more possessed, than before. It sounds a world away from that first simple pleasure, because it’s produced in London (not some lo-fi warehouse in Lyttelton where they famously had to piss in a pot in the corner) with famed producer John Parish, whose main previous client is PJ Harvey.
It’s inevitably with Harvey that Harding is being com- pared, and not without reason. Apart from the Parish connection, they’re both atypical female musicians/songwriters who seem blessed/ cursed with a gnawing drive to express their art in an uncompromised, personal way, flaws and all, and both are alt-femmes whose beauty and sensuality transcend gender stereotypes.
Harding also has something in common with those other two inimitable storytellers in song, Tom Waits and Nick Cave. Both Waits and Cave found themselves when they hooked into the idea of song as cinema for the ears, either acting out the drama or
That fragile voice only occasionally peeps through. Instead, there are voices, plural, and if anything, they’re even more intense, and more possessed, than before.
ABOVE— Aldous Harding draws comparisons with PJ Harvey, but also has something in common with Tom Waits and Nick Cave.