Sunset Series on the Roof Deck
Aldous Harding on the Roof Deck
1300 SE Stark Street
Portland, OR, 97214
Doors 6:00 PM / Show 7:00 PM
This event is 21 and over
Singer/songwriter Aldous Harding first drew praise for the gothic folk and stark emotionality of her 2015 debut that brought about comparisons to both Kate Bush and Scott Walker. She grew up as Hannah Harding in the town of Lyttelton near Christchurch in New Zealand to musician parents. Her mother was folk singer Lorina Harding, and it was on her Folk-Tui-winning record Clean Break that the 13-year-old Harding made here recording debut. Despite this early foray into the music business, the young Harding had no interest in pursuing a career as a musician, believing it to be a precarious existence. Just a couple of years later, she began to let go of her dreams of becoming a vet when she started singing and writing songs alongside friend and fellow musician Nadia Reid. By 2008 she was performing backup vocals for the traveling string band the Eastern, and Harding got an early break when she was spotted busking by Anika Moa, who on the back of that performance invited the young musician to open for her at her show that same night. In 2012 Harding changed her forename to Aldous and asked Marlon Williams and Ben Edwards to co-produce what would become her debut record. The self-titled release garnered much critical acclaim, and Harding toured the album extensively. For her follow-up, she signed to British independent label 4AD, and enlisted the help of John Parish (Sparklehorse, PJ Harvey) to co-produce the record. Her sophomore album Party was released in 2017, and was preceded by the singles "Horizon" and "Imagining My Man."
There is something enduring about great love songs, and Briana Marela's Call It Love wraps its wide arms around the subject, invoking all its complexity. From the getgo, Call it Love opens with a reflection on a new love. An unfurling, ambient hum builds slowly, articulating that unmistakable head-in- the-clouds feeling that accompanies early love, before giving way to an uptempo melody and a clattering, joyful chorus. Layers and textures evoke its subtler feelings, while the lyrics speak frankly, holding nothing back. Deepening her songwriting and expanding her palette, Briana Marela has made her proverbial giant leap, to explore the sounds of love in beautiful, striking new ways.
Before writing the songs that would become Call It Love, Briana Marela was typically guided first and foremost by her instincts as a producer and engineer. Marela studied audio production in Olympia at The Evergreen State College, and her previous albums, Speak From Your Heart and All Around Us, capture that early spirit of exploration. Marela's original vision for this album was to dig into the two poles of her songwriting styles: her ambient, ethereal side and her brighter, beat-driven pop leanings. She enlisted the production help of Juan Pieczanski and Ryan Heyner of the band Small Black. Instead of recording everything from scratch in the studio, Marela brought recorded stems for every song that then evolved and developed further in the studio. Pieczanski and Heyner brought a strong percussive instinct, weaving pop and polish into even the most spaced-out cinematic arrangements, and upon hearing their most recent self-produced album, Marela's decision to work with them was almost instantaneous.
"Originally, I was trying to make this album have cohesive pairs of songs," Marela says, "sister songs, where all the ambient songs would have a poppier match, and vice versa." What followed instead was a fusion of the two styles, with Marela's subtler, sweeter side crashing into her bolder, brighter one. "Give Me Your Love" explores what Marela calls "love's immature, silly and selfish side. That eagerness, the feeling of lust and wanting more." It begins almost as an electronic ballad, sweet and inviting, before crashing into a dance-floor rhythm and a winking, flirtatious breakdown. "Feel What I Feel" was first written about Marela's first big breakup when she was barely twenty, but it bears a new sophistication in this recorded version; the lyrics dare the subject to jump back in, even as the music reminds them Marela doesn't need their love to be happy. And then there's the deep, dramatic centerpiece of Call It Love, "Quit." Originally penned about a breakup with a longtime partner, and written with the idea that she could give the song away to another artist, "Quit" is powerful and revealing in Marela's hands; the percussion crashes into her vocals, and the low-end acts like an undertow, wrestling and pulling at its beat.
If "Be In Love" is the sound of falling in love, "Farthest Shore" is the sound of looking inward, of reckoning with oneself. Inspired by the book 'The Farthest Shore' by Ursula K LeGuin, it is one of only two songs not strictly about love, instead exploring what makes our own lives worth living. "I have always had an intense fear of death," Briana explains, "and this book inspired me to remember the magic in pursuing creativity, and that eternal life would actually be very dull." It is an intricate, cavernous song, setting a deceptively pretty melody over ominous, hazy drones and skittering percussion. And here, again, the contradictory becomes complementary.