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Mothers - Render Another Ugly Method (Album Review)

Tuesday, 18 September 2018 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Tonje Thilesen

After relocating to Philadelphia, experimental folk quartet Mothers enlisted War on Drugs and St. Vincent producer John Congleton to work on their second album, ‘Render Another Ugly Method’.

The result is a record of highly intellectual music that finds Kristine Leschper’s poetry floating above spiky, angular riffs and bewildering rhythms. It represents an impressively deep dive into the avant-garde, while containing a lot of the baggage associated with that particular artistic movement.

Take one of its singles, BEAUTY ROUTINE. We open with dissonant, watery guitar and spare, almost free-time drums that take us somewhere towards 'Kid A' or 'Amnesiac'-era Radiohead. The fundamental structure of the song is intriguing, with a tilting vocal that leads us into a dramatic lift-off two minutes in.

Here it switches time signature, adding texture and tone, and develops a distinctive, almost singalong melody. It’s at this point that one realises Leschper’s lyrics are completely incomprehensible; such is the mumbled nature of their delivery.

It’s a shame because the words are superb: “I've been practicing / Extreme forms of distraction / Brush my teeth / As an act of desperation / Show me a beauty routine / To erase me completely.” Leschper is clearly a writer of great wit and self awareness whose quality is not really revealed by the recordings.

Similarly, another great track undone by its delivery is BLAME KIT. It arrives with an uptempo rhythm and tonally complex guitars that once again recall the work of Jonny Greenwood et al. Halfway through we are subjected to another time signature change but here it completely breaks up a track that was developing nicely into a fascinating semi-extemporised odyssey. We then muddle our way through a waltzing melody that dwells and murmurs, and finally dies. It’s incredibly unsatisfying.

There is nothing wrong with deliberately obfuscating the messaging of the music you create. As an artist, you have every right to produce the work that feels most natural to you and which, in many cases, makes high demands of your audience. Furthermore, a lot of the best art requires work to be fully understood.

The challenge with ‘Render Another Ugly Method’ comes in the suitability of format for the output. Leschper’s poetry is one of the stronger elements, but ultimately that is what it is: poetry. Songs whirr and clunk but don’t always click. In their defence, it does not seem like Mothers' songs are necessarily designed to click, but the finest music in this space often does. They remain an intensely interesting band, nonetheless.

Mothers Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu February 21 2019 - BRIGHTON Hope & Ruin
Fri February 22 2019 - MANCHESTER Soup Kitchen
Sat February 23 2019 - GLASGOW Hug And Pint
Mon February 25 2019 - LEEDS Belgrave Music Hall
Tue February 26 2019 - BIRMINGHAM Hare And Hounds
Wed February 27 2019 - LONDON Oslo

Click here to compare & buy Mothers Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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