Aldous Harding found something on Designer that she’d been missing on her first two albums – call it poise, or maybe it’s a capacity for ingenious deflection. There’s something deeply inscrutable about the nine songs on this album, each of them holding clues that never quite add up together. This is the key to Designer’s magic, though: it hints without telling. The trace elements of folk that were core to Harding’s earlier work haven’t entirely disappeared, but they have dissolved into a warm, dry sound that’s close to the work that Joe Boyd and Witchseason Productions did in the ‘70s. Harding’s songs, however, feel closer to the art song of the likes of Carla Bley or Slapp Happy, they’re just painted in different hues: burgundy, oak, and on occasion, a silvery chill.

Jon Dale