Album: Aldous Harding – Warm Chris review

by Philip Moss

The New Zealand songwriter displays many voices on her most eclectic record to date

4AD’s signing of Aldous Harding back in 2016 seemed a strange pairing at the time. But just one taste of the artist in a live setting, and the sincerity of her many quirks answered all the questions.

Now three records into her career with one of alternative music’s most revered labels, on record too, she most certainly carries the 4AD skin with ease. Different to Party and Designer, there is no definitive sound to Warm Chris; it is her most eclectic record to date, as she flits like a mix tape displaying a foray of the genres that have made the London label so iconic.

The most obvious observation to be made on initial plays of Harding’s fourth record is the use of her voice – each track that edges into sight could almost be by a different singer, yet, at the same time, be by no one else. The minimal experimentations of Ennui, and the playful nature of Tick Tock are reminiscent of Cate Le Bon’s Pompeii. Producer, John Parish’s scaled back psych on Fever make her ephemeral voice the song’s defining hook. While backed by minimal piano, the Karen Dalton meets Jessica Pratt-isms feel more than comfortable on philosophical questioning of She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain.

On a record full of brilliant moments, its most special pops up as the finale – Leathery Whip, seemingly, Harding’s attempt to summarise everything that is so special about her into one cut. Her voice, or, again, voices to be more precise, flit like a piece of elastic – ‘Here comes life with his leathery whip/Here comes life with his leathery leathery!’ she sings, backed by Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson. Part circus freak show, part medieval banquet hall jesters, they combine on the best chorus released by anyone this year. A fitting end to an album that could only be made by an artist that has come, in many ways, to define the modern 4AD roster: Aldous Harding.

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