You would be forgiven for thinking Aldous Harding is a new artist on the block. By pushing boundaries and transgressing ideas around music and performance, Harding firmly sits apart from the mainstream. However, she has undoubtedly been making waves in the alternative music scene for the better part of the last six years. With her sombre yet playful melodies, the New Zealander’s music encapsulates a range of genres, including indie, folk, gothic and country.
The release of her third album, Designer, last year was met with critical acclaim and has won her a hoard of new and famous admirers. It came as no shock to see some familiar faces in the crowd at her Perth gig on Friday 28th, including the likes of local favourites Methyl Ethel, POND singer-songwriter Nick Allbrook and Tiger Lily Hutchence — daughter of the late INXS frontman Michael Hutchence. Harding performed as part of the Perth Festival, complimented by the charming milk-crate walls of the Chervon Lighthouse: a pop-up venue nestled between the historic Perth Concert Hall and the serene Langley Park.
Anyone who has ever seen Aldous Harding perform or watched one of her music videos would know that her eccentric character is as mesmerising as her sound. I first saw Harding perform at Laneway Festival in 2018. Allotted the early afternoon set on one of the smaller stages, she graced her audience dressed all in white and sporting a mullet. She seemed distant, but also gave the impression that she was the most present. Barely interacting with her fans, Harding is a refreshing change from the usual recycled one-liners and cheap smiles. Staring intensely and unashamedly at the crowd, she was clearly not shy either. Harding let her music do the talking — and that it did.
Her most recent Perth gig showed off her similar quirks. She walked on stage, all dressed in black, and headed straight to her acoustic guitar to play Living the Classics — a hit from her 2017 record Party; a fitting start given her acoustic trademark sound that has remained a constant throughout her career, which began as a busker. A key difference with this gig, however, was that the crowd was substantially larger than that in 2018 and, I’m sure, of that of a busker. After the ditty, Harding’s band accompanied her, playing the title song of her latest record, a comparatively more upbeat song. The crowd seem to warm up at this point nodding their heads and swaying to-and-fro.
The rest of the set was filled with her newer tracks, music that made use of the bands multiple-instrumental talents. Playing with melody and harmony, they created an experience that was truly unique, other-worldly and addictive. A highlight was Harding keeping beat using a coffee mug and drumstick during Weight of the Planets — a track effortlessly fusing tropicana with funk and yet creating a sound altogether new.
Before the gig was even over, it was clear that the audience had witnessed something truly masterful. Aldous Harding: one to watch.