Calling Hannah Harding a folk singer really doesn’t do her justice. While being compared to the likes of Kate Bush and Scott Walker is heady company, the music she creates distills moments of lyrical beauty and musical complexity. Under the guise of Aldous Harding, her voice ranges from a child-like lilt to growlingly gruff grownup. It’s a truly impressive instrument, used to maximum effect, coloring and shading the songs on Party.
Harding trades in untraditional, emotional folk songs, singing and soaring like a bird using a myriad of voices. Combined with unfussy, yet poignant production the focus remains on the singer and the song. There are times when you’d swear there are at least three different vocalists, plus a choir of children. That Harding is able to make sense of all these voices is a testament to how carefully these songs are crafted.
Subtle touches like a spare acoustic piano on ‘Swell Does The Skull’ delivers the emotional maturity the song needs, while the refrain, “I’d never be without him” makes the message crystal clear. ‘Living The Classics’ could be a typical folk song, gentle acoustic guitar in the foreground with subtle electric accents, nary a drum anywhere in the mix. The flourishes producer John Parrish (best known for his work with P.J. Harvey) adds to Harding’s songs are never intrusive.
‘Party’ is one of the few songs to even offer a rudimentary drumbeat. “I was as happy as I would ever be, believe in me, I will never break from you.” Yet, on ‘Horizon’ the picture that is painted is one of a young woman who has broken from her lover or perhaps her lover has broken from her, “and now the sugar’s run out, and I don’t know what to say, here is you princess and here is your horizon.”
Aldous Harding’s Party stands out from the crowd by knowing its strengths and sticking to them. A remarkable woman with an outstanding voice, Harding delivers her songs with the aplomb of someone going places.
Words: Bob Fish