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The third album from impressionistic New Zealand singer-songwriter Aldous Harding eludes easy classification, which makes her delicately built and beautifully rendered songs all the more alluring. Loosely drawn across Designer’s nine songs are images of delight teetering on the verge of anxiety, expressed through Harding’s playful approach to synchronising words and sound.

Harding’s partner in this effort is producer John Parish, a collaborator she shares with Perfume Genius and folk-pop singer (and fellow Kiwi) Laura Jean. With this release, the pair continue the project they began on Party, lifting sounds from outside of a traditional folk vernacular: Harding’s springily plucked acoustic guitar is, at various moments, accompanied by saxophones and drum loops, xylophones and synths. Choral backup adds texture to Harding’s already chameleonic vocals. Such unexpected flourishes can add drama or levity, or sometimes both in the space of a single song. The record repays multiple listens and deep investment, as Harding’s pauses and supporting instrumental actors are often as significant as what’s going on up top, all creating a sense of tensile beauty as certain as physics but impossible to pin down. Elegant and elemental, quietly confident and masterfully understated, Designer feels like a breath of fresh air in a time dense with noise and algorithmic hiss.