Aldous Harding is nowhere near as bad as Simon Sweetman says she is. She doesn’t sound like a goat. Goats do not like folk music. ‘Blend’ is folk music at its heart – Harding can’t rid herself of plaintive guitar lines, like those that were strewn over her debut. In songs like ‘Horizon’ Harding exaggerates those folk tendencies toward something that resembles what a cave would sound like if it joined a Bob Dylan covers band with a seal and the famous singer, Seal. Folk, at its heart, is a type of theatre. Woody Guthrie is performing the part of a dust bowl Depression-era citizen. Bob Dylan is an exaggeration of those qualities to the nth degree until he suddenly decides to perform something else – country singer or Frank Sinatra or whatever. More recent folk singers — Nadia Reid, et al, peddle a version of authenticity where the singer is an omniscient entity across the whole album (consider the reverb applied to Reid’s recent outing, ‘Preservation’). So authenticity doesn’t really matter. It’s boring. But ‘Blend’ is still folkie, cold drum line or not. Harding switches between “I” and “her” effortlessly – her lyrics are so specific as to be gnomic: ‘I used to watch you from the van/it was your band’. They feel directed at one particularly person — as the audience we’re left with the husks of lyrics, the hulled shells.
I find Harding more compelling than the current crop of New Zealand folk: Reid, Kane Strang, Marlon Williams, Luckless, et al. Most folk is at pains to reassert its authenticity, to lay some WORDS on you. Lay some authentic FEELING on you. I’m relieved music in the various micro-scenes here has moved away from such sincerity. The band Ov Pain sometimes sounds like characters from a H P Lovecraft story – Tim Player’s vocals as if he were in a B movie in another reality. Harding is at ease with playing a multiplicity of characters. I’m unsure if it is always compelling — ‘Blend’ does go on a bit – it’s like the Ebert scale of rating superhero movies against superhero movies, war movies against war movies, folk singers with folk singers, and so on. B-