24th November | SWX
Aldous Harding is one of the most captivating performers I have witnessed, on multiple occasions, and I don’t say that lightly. Over the past few years the New Zealander’s name has spread like wildfire through those who have experienced the full, visceral vehemence of Harding’s tormented, unconventional folk songs and her entrancing, inimitable genius.
Guitarist in Harding’s band, and solo artist in his own right, H. Hawkline takes to the stage with his meandering melodic and melancholic tenderness. Interspersing his dreamy, wistful melodies with wry commentary, a few songs in he jokes about vowing not to make a breakup record “yet here I am singing this to you in my sister’s dressing gown”; his set is gently, and nonchalantly, captivating.
Settling atop a stool and poised over her guitar, Harding gently strums and her otherworldly vocals crescendo through the room as she opens with ‘Swell Does the Skull’. Lingering syllables hover in the air, wavering between powerful, crystalline notes and hushed, distorted incantations as Harding’s facial expressions contort and convulse with unwavering intensity. On Party, Harding’s sophomore album released earlier this year, the artist’s unique vocal versatility is expressed potently, and tonight’s performance imbues this full spectrum of distinct sounds with a tangible gravity, each utterance escaping in spectral swathes.
At times it feels like Harding is exorcising demons from her very soul, crafting melodies with an almost hesitant deliberation, wrenching out memories and emotions in a kind of possessed musical catharsis as she stares indistinctly ahead; a forbidding and graceful presence, expressing her innermost turmoil with a solemn purity. ‘What If Birds Aren’t Singing They’re Screaming’ illustrates perfectly Harding’s wondrous, warped lyricism and she performs the track with a resolute fervour that verges on a perverse desperation.
Her voice a commanding weapon, the full power of it surfaces intermittently, soaring from a whisper to an invincible expression as she delivers the line “the beauty is so close to me”, on ‘Elation’, with such rich, emotive depth, and as she performs the spellbinding ‘Horizon’, standing as a formidable figure in front of us, with a steadfast defiance. As she sings ‘Living the Classics’ there’s an undeniable sense that tonight we are witnessing an artist destined to be revered as just such a timeless talent. Performing new song ‘Pilot’ as an encore, Aldous Harding modestly expresses gratitude before leaving the stage for the final time and this evening’s show proves her a pure enchantress, from another realm, to behold.
Watch the video for ‘Horizon’ below.