by Kristin Kurens
First impressions are everything. I trekked up to Meow Wolf, the psychedelic immersive art installation in Santa Fe, NM to see the band Deerhunter last autumn.
Sipping sparkling wine, I watched one of the opening acts: Aldous Harding. My reaction was two-fold—half of me wanted to disappear into a dark corner to evade her piercing eyes. The other half of me was hooked, drawn perpetually forward.
Harding, a 27-year-old “goth-folk” artist from New Zealand fully commands her voice, face, body. This is presence. This is range. This is command.
Minimal chord structures frame Harding’s extraordinary voice, which ranges from sultry, pouty to desperate, sad, and even shrill. The chorus for the title track from her latest album, Party, demands that shrillness, depends on it. It sets the tone for the sadness of the song.
Harding is unafraid to use every facet of her being to make her point, to expand each song. She fixates on an audience member with the most intense stare before contorting her face, bracing her body, and letting the vocals sail forth.
She feels each note and each lyric deeply.
Harding’s songs seemingly shouldn’t work. Why does that chorus sound that way? Can she do that? She can, and she does. Harding’s infectious nature soon takes over.
Recently signed to long-time goth troubadour label 4AD, Harding’s LP Party feels like a lament on loneliness and aching reminiscence. “He had me sit like a baby/I looked just twelve/With his thumb in my mouth.”
Kristin Kurens is a writer, editor, and artist. She thrives on words, music, art, and aiding the verbally challenged. In her free time she writes fiction, paints, travels—always in pursuit of the authentic and strange.