Had Aldous Harding remained preserved in aspic, with just two mesmeric, folk-adjacent albums to her name, she would still be numbered among this generation’s true originals.
Renown and greater budgets have allowed this New Zealander to trade up to a more generous band sound and ever-lusher production, still courtesy of John Parish who did Party, her tour de force of 2015. Harding’s rhythmic decisions have started tending towards Spain; now there’s a Welsh lilt to add to her zoo of voices. Where once she used to resemble Kate Bush singing the songs of Will Oldham – a dramatic stylist operating out of spectral folk – now she shimmies.
Each of the tracks released from Designer so far has been engrossing – The Barrel, with its opaque lyricism (“show the ferret to the egg”), the equally gnomic Fixture Pixture, with its Air bassline. The album’s killer track is Zoo Eyes, which wonders: “What am I doing in Dubai?” As previously, the rest of the record repays deep investment, as Harding’s pauses and supporting instrumental actors are often as significant as what’s going on up top, all creating a sense of tensile beauty as certain as physics but impossible to pin down.