A slow, psychotropic waltz introduces “Beauty Routine,” the opening track of Mothers’ sophomore LP, Render Another Ugly Method. Ripples of dissonant chords spiral into jangly vertigo as vocalist-guitarist Kristine Leschper sings of going through the motions.
The lyrics liken Leschper’s point of view to that of a “little white mouse with tiny red eyes.” As if referring to a separate version of herself, she then sings, with growing resonance, “Tell me how happy I could be/ Been meaning to tell you/ I’ve been practicing extreme forms of distraction/ Brush my teeth as an act of desperation.”
Though one of the shorter tracks on the record, it already takes an apparent shift from the Athens, Georgia group’s debut album, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired. The 2016 LP felt much like stepping into the artist’s shoes, with its heart-on-sleeve lyrics unraveled by equally emotive instrumentals. The new record takes a less confessional approach. Instead, listeners stand alongside the band as an onlooker of human nature, observing personal reflections from above.
Tracks “Pink” and “It Is A Pleasure To Be Here” glimpse at bitter truths that often remain unseen. The former flashes back to tense interactions between two parties–one pensive and the other passive. It starts with a beguiling surf-rock riff that moves into minor notation as Leschper fittingly opens with the words, “defective and invariable.” The latter keeps in mind the thoughts that haunt others. It’s a reminder to not get too wrapped up in your own world.
On top of changing perspectives, Mothers challenge their approach to sound on Render Another Ugly Method. The band’s already-elaborate arrangements have adopted a more freeform and fragmented approach. “Blame Kit” is the first prominent example of this, starting at an accelerated pace with calculated guitar licks and constant hits to the hi-hat. After a sudden halt, the group slows and arpeggiates the rhythm, revisiting a haunting motif that snakes around Leschper’s vocals.
“Baptist Trauma,” “Circle Once” and “Mutual Agreement” follow suit using alternating rhythmic patterns and a patchwork of melodic ideas. Paired with lyrics that read like “spilled ink” poetry, these efforts begin to personify the complexity of the nature seen in the song. “Western Medicine,” “Mother and Wife” and “Wealth Center/Risk Capital” delve even deeper into niche observations by tugging at sociopolitical and economic themes, and turning them into abstractions.
Given the experimental arrangement of Render Another Ugly Method, the album, as a whole, inevitably feels all over the place at times. The sonic twists and lyrical turns do get a bit challenging to take in all at once. But ultimately, Mothers weave all elements together cohesively. Paralleling the band’s examination of its surrounding world, Render Another Ugly Method is like its own universe, consisting of different energies and matter that combine to make one great entity, waiting to be observed.