Singer, songwriter and guitarist, Kristine Leschper and her now Philadelphia-based Mothers have released their engulfing new album Render Another Ugly Method.
Exploring issues of womanhood, motivations and existentialism, as well as distant memories, the passage of foggy time and dealing with issues of body angst, Render Another Ugly Method follows-up their debut album of 2016, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired.
“The self-importance of [Mothers’ first record, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired], looking back, has made me feel sheltered and embarrassed by my own experiences, especially as a white American born in an upper-middle class family”, Leschper has said.
It is an album infused with confessional songwriting, influenced by the poetry of the likes of Sylvia Plath, and musicians such as Bright Eyes. Whilst valuing this self-exploration, Leshper has expanded her palette a little, also delving into other lives in forming a greater vision, albeit still wrapped up in the personal. Moreover, Render Another Ugly Method is less linear and more deconstructive in its musical approach, Leschper challenging herself to work her way to more thoughtful, if still sometimes inscrutable, conclusions.
Allied with the back seat production of John Congleton, and a band that includes the superb improvisational drumming of Matthew Anderegg, guitarist Drew Kirby, and Chris Goggans on bass, Render Another Ugly Method is still full of dense and gloomy soundscapes. While it can be a challenge to listen to in its entirety, it comes across like a breath of fresh air across a barren and lifeless landscape: the shifting and dense rhythms allied to Leschper’s elongated vocal sounds and lyrics, striving to impart some meaning, and some life into what amounts to a continuing crisis of confidence.
Such as on lead track ‘Beauty Routine’, the initially extremely languid and dreamy groove finally giving away to a propulsive and warped waltz-style beat. “I’ve been practising, extreme forms of distraction / Brush my teeth, as an act of desperation”, Leschper sings in her signature deadpan-meets-haunting tones. While the most propulsive track here, the utterly beguiling ‘Pink’, describes a series of memories within cars over the years: “And I think of babies born / First scream into infinity / And I am tired“.
It’s this dynamic that informs much of what is on offer here, the grooves and beats shifting against Leschper’s childlike falsetto. The slow and haunting ‘It Is A Pleasure To Be Here’ allies a simple strumming pattern with her eerie, painstaking voice, while ‘Blame Kit’ is part post-punk, part dark waltz, a musicality that veers from the sharp to the brooding.
Then there’s the agitated beats and African-flavoured guitar of ‘Western Medicine’, which gives way to a more formal groove, followed by booming drums and repetitive guitar arpeggio, while stuttering post-punk meets the sluggish dirge of ‘Circle Once’.
Things get really lethargic with the questioning on ‘Mutual Agreement’, as Leschper sings: “Hard to focus, efforts fruitless / Mirror high-brow bullshit / Sit still and quietly dissect the motive“. While another multi-part song, ‘Wealth Center / Risk Capital’ meanders between heavy doom rock, spoken word, and jittery post-punk.
For sure, Render Another Ugly Method is, in name and content, a challenge. The ebb and flow of grey and sad textures – interspersed with moments of muscular agitation and propulsive workouts – is largely compelling, rising above surface detachment into a flowering, and rarely stumbling work. One step backwards, two steps forward, Mothers’ sure-footedness keeps this moving, and us guessing.