“I am excited at the prospect of living without a body / I am ungrateful and this proves it” – WEALTH CENTER RISK CAPITAL
It was evident from first hearing that Mothers’ debut album might well end up being one of the coming year’s best. Released early in 2016, into a world still reeling from the loss of one irreplaceable figure, with precious little idea of the tragedies yet to come – both within the cultural sphere and without – When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired was an album of fractured beauty.
Based around poems, fragments and sketches by vocalist, guitarist and visual artist Kristine Leschper, the songs appeared transformed by the often intricate, multi-part structures she and her band crafted for them. Aside from the fragile, folkish lead track Too Small For Eyes, each song was like silk ribbons wrapped around the gears of an infinitely complex machine, combining Leschper’s almost uncomfortably intimate and high vocal around spidery, math-y guitar tangles and taut, fitful rhythms.
Arriving with the subtitle “an assemblage of personal vignettes and imagined scenarios that examines consent, escape of the body, power & powerlessness and the act of making”, Render Another Ugly Method takes similar routes but seems to mirror the darker turns the world has taken. Where before notes flowed and spiralled, songs like PINK* and BAPTIST TRAUMA (*block capitals preserved from the album’s own tracklisting) bristle with brittle, nervy energy (“Render another ugly method / into something thrilling”) – with hints of (very) early Pavement or Sonic Youth – while others make abrupt left-turns, tearing elements out of their own sound and reassembling them into grotesque bricolages, never quite getting back to the place they started from. Guitars weave in and out, while the rhythm section stops and starts and blends awkward, mathematical time signature changes with ease.
There are moments of beauty and serenity. Opener BEAUTY ROUTINE is disarmingly gentle, with puddling guitars, while MOTHER AND WIFE has an almost jazzy calm, but these underpin bleak, self-negating lyrics (“Brush my teeth / as an act of desperation / show me a beauty routine / to erase me completely”; “Mother, I tried”), delivered by Leschper with as much disconcerting power as her voice ever had.
Render Another Ugly Method is an album which demands careful listening, almost as it pushes away the listener, inviting interpretation as it rejects it. Often thrilling, it is rarely less than compelling.