It’s rare to find an album that literally stops you in your tracks and beckons you to join it somewhere comfortable, somewhere you won’t be disturbed, somewhere the two of you can dig deep and get to know each other. Aldous Harding ’s self-titled debut album does just that.
Hannah (real name) Harding hails from Lyttelton, where Marlon Williams produced this album which is released on Lyttelton Records, label co-founder Ben Edwards also involved as the recording engineer. Like most good folk music, the songs are stripped back to their essence. Acoustic guitar fleshes out the majority of the space behind the vocals, occasionally boosted by violin, woodwind, choir or a singing saw. The instruments, played by a cast of musicians including Simon Gregory, Ben Woolley, Dave Kahn, Helen Webby, Joseph McCallum, Marlon Williams, Matthew Strother, Pascal Ackermann and Kirsten Mairi add just the right amount of weight and momentum to the tracks, creating soundscapes for the lead and backing vocals to drift through, pushing and pulling at the time.
Harding’s voice, similar to that of Vashti Bunyan in style and timbre, sits at the forefront of the tracks. Each syllable is carefully considered, each note carefully placed – light and mystical at times (Two Bitten Hearts), or heavy and melodramatic (Stop Your Tears). Harding isn’t doing anything groundbreaking, but nor should she, her voice and compelling awkwardness are her own. Old, timeless structures and musical dialogue are being played with to create songs that manage to sound modern yet retrospective. This album could just as easily slide into any collection next to Joan Baez as it could Nick Cave.