Sometimes a new artist comes along that sounds like they have walked the troubled roads of life for an eternity. It’s as if New Zealand’s Aldous Harding has wandered the ancient pathways of history collecting stories of woe and emotional heartbreak, saving up a hundred years of experience, passing on her own history to her young self and living again through the torments and toil of existence. She lives under the eaves of authenticity in the company of other wistful maidens – Mary Hopkin, Sandy Denny, Bridget St John.
It’s timeless intense Folk music that could have been recorded anytime in the last 70 years. Sparse acoustic guitar and warbling voice that sporadically augments with theremin on Two Bittern Hearts or flute on No Peace At All, strings and muted drum and bass on Merriweather. But it’s her voice that captures your soul. She sounds Irish or rather as if her tones come from the knowledge of an old forgotten dialect. At other times she sounds like she may have been born the daughter of a 15th century king, whiling the way mournful hours in a cold stone tower trapped in solitude.
Two titles acknowledge Mervyn Peake’s writing, Titus Groan with electric guitar, violin and harmony, on the final track Titus Alone the harmony returns as a bizarre duet between a mysterious figure that haunts the background.
Harding is Folk poetry, she is like reading a book that transfixes you, makes time stand still, stealing time from your life that you willingly surrender to her. My only fear is that after experiencing her world of reverie and reality, ancient youth and complex easy magic, that I may not be able to return to my own time, forever trapped in her special world of wonder and despair.
I will never marry my love
I will die waiting for the bells
Death, come pull me underwater
I have nothing left to fear from hell
I was gifted at the music
I was born the day the year was new
Someone has stolen all the water
I keep the pills inside an urn
Lord, show me my daughter
Show me her before she burned
We go walking in the hallways
Now and then a record gives a tune
Sometimes we hang from our chambers
Baudelaire in the afternoon
The yellow rose is a stranger
The devil’s invitation in bloom
I stand looking at my chamber
There are many things upon the floor
The blade is ready for the slaughter
The Virgin Mary hangs on the door
I will arrive at death’s border
Take back the cover God has torn from me
I am at the river with baby
Her father enters with a leap
Hold her head above the water
She is pale against the streak
I am the horse beneath his daughter
He is the mountain underneath