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Aldous Harding Warm Chris

The mystery of Aldous Harding thickens with this set of oddball folk rock.

4AD

Released: 25 March 2022
Warm Chris

Warm Chris, the latest offering from New Zealand’s Aldous Harding, brings to its chamber folk songs an off-kilter tone somewhere between the comically absurd and the menacingly uncanny.

The music is pleasantly sedate, with looped grooves of warm acoustic guitar, piano and drums recalling the sunny acid folk-rock of the sixties and seventies, but fretted with a barely-constrained manic energy. See the out-of-nowhere ape impersonation on 'Staring at the Henry Moore' or the saxophone closing out 'Ennui', which executes a steady, unsyncopated melody before concluding with a scrabbling of keys and muffled squawking.

As a vocal persona, Harding is elusive. At one moment nasal and birdlike, the next rich and dusky, she recalls artists as disparate as Nico, Lou Reed, Joanna Newsom and Vashti Bunyan. The effect is playful and satirical. She assumes voices like an impressionist comic, while guitar and horn riffs punctuate her lyrics like musical punchlines. It’s delightful, but listeners who crave personability in their singer-songwriters might struggle.

Other standouts continue this tension. 'Passion Babe' is an oddly soulful melange of bass, organ and Kate Bushy piano cadences, with vocals equally affecting and bizarre; 'She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain' is a stark and theatrical piano piece that dashes its high drama on bathetic food metaphors and country banjo. The title track comes close to pulling back the curtain – atop skeletal guitar, she speak-sings in raw, whispered tones, her New Zealand accent for once identifiable – but electric guitar crashes in before the listener can get too close.