Surrealism and music go hand-in-hand; they both have a flexibility and a fluidity that, done well, marry
beautifully. Folk singer Aldous Harding is clearly drawn to the weird and the wonderful, and nothing
exemplifies that more than her music video for “Tick Tok”. Directed by the Kiwi artist herself, the song is
taken from her latest album Warm Chris, which she will be performing in her upcoming tour (coming to
Scotland in Spring 2023).
In the animated music video, we follow a young boy as he traverses a dream-like landscape, starting in
scraggly suburbia, through a magical natural landscape with bears holding fishing rods and blue
breastfeeding bunny rabbits, carried over industrial junk yards by a dragon, and finally through the sky on
a needle and thread. As his surroundings change, so does he; his skin colour changes, he ages, he spends a
stint as a turtle, that sort of thing.
Although it is true you never quite know what is coming next, you’re never all that interested either, since
the transitions between the different landscapes don’t follow a recognisable logic. It reminds me of
reading or watching Alice in Wonderland; the places and encounters are enchanting, but each follows on
to each other because there is still a sense of transition and direction; Alice is always trying to find “the
beautiful garden” – here, the purpose of the journey isn’t so clear. But perhaps that is too much to expect
from a music video that isn’t even four minutes long.
What is fair to expect is that the music video is memorable, and in some way contributes to your
appreciation and association with the song. The music video for Harding’s “The Barrel” does this well; it
has a textural quality that ties to her silky-smooth vocals. It also has a kind of Mighty-Boosh-like
weirdness that starts with some stiff, unusual dancing and leads to imagery that is grotesque, yet hard to
look away from. It communicates Harding’s talents as well as something of her personality; the visuals
juxtapose the softness of the song in a way you aren’t likely to forget.
By contrast, “Tick Tock” as a visual offering is strangely immemorable. The surrealism is neither
indulgently pleasant to look at (especially with its muddy colour palette) nor is it so odd that it sears itself
into your brain like “The Barrel”. Its connection to the song isn’t particularly obvious either. One thing I
can draw on is that both the song and the visuals, at times, relate to ways of “seeing”; on seeing yourself,
on being seen, how you may be seen in different contexts etc. But aside from this, it is too disconnected
from the song to leave any great impression after seeing it. The song, and Harding’s album as a whole, are
well worth seeking out, but even with imagery like a badger wearing glasses made out of worms, and a
steam train with a massive eyeball on its front, you won’t be missing anything by skipping the music
By Flora Gosling (she / her)