The Louisiana | 29th August
Going into a gig with a set of preconceived expectations is almost a given, especially when you’ve been spinning the band’s album near incessantly for the months prior to the show. So when a band not only exceeds, but also confounds those expectations, it’s something of a shock to the system.
Mothers, whose fantastic debut album When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired, has become a firm favourite for this reviewer since it arrived out of nowhere earlier this year, performed such a feat on a balmy Bank Holiday Monday in the intimate surrounds of The Louisiana.
Based on my knowledge of Mothers’ small recorded output thus far, and their recent interview with BLM, I had it in mind that I would be seeing some lovely melodic indie, albeit with unusually intelligent song structures and nuanced folksy arrangements. Yet it seems that Mothers have grown into a whole new and significantly powerful unit, no doubt in part due to their busy touring schedule. And their sound has developed into something altogether more complex than most of the offerings from their debut.
The brave decision to begin with three brand new songs shows the degree of self-confidence the U.S. four piece is currently enjoying. Its a decidedly low key start, purposeful one assumes, with vocalist Kristine Leschper, cap pulled low over her forehead, a reluctant centrepiece for the proceedings. In hushed expectant silence we await the first few tentatively strummed chords. Immediately the resonant, warm, yet eerie guitar tone brings to mind 90s slow core, the likes of Slint, Low, and in particular early Red House Painters. Leschper’s voice enters, winding its high keening tone around her gentle guitar work.
The obvious comparison for her vocals, which I’m sure she is sick of hearing, is that of Joanna Newsom. But unlike Newsom, Leschper’s voice never comes across as grating or overly affected. Rather, she sounds like someone singing directly from the heart, which when tied with her emotionally candid lyrics strikes right into one’s chest, like a bolt of pure, raw feel.
Aided by a crisp, clear sound mix, Mothers’ glacial stop-start songs work like little melodic labyrinths, puzzles to pick apart as you listen along, following the band down their own peculiar melancholy rabbit hole. The deft, sometimes jazz inflected impressionistic drum work of Matthew Anderegg is stunning throughout, adding texture when required, but never overdoing it or getting in the way of the wider sound. His fluttering meandering rushes reminiscent of Dirty Three’s Jim White, or even to my mind free jazz legend Sonny Murray. No one member of the band drops the ball at any point during their all too short set. Theres a fascinating interplay between the rich bass tone produced by Chris Goggans, and Drew Kirby’s technical but never showy guitar playing. His fluid, fiddly guitar lines have the lovely watery feel of Victor Villareal’s work with Owls or Ghosts And Vodka. And there is a pronounced math-rock element to Mothers sound that wasn’t always in evidence on their debut album.
The newer tracks they play tonight are knotty, mosaic-like in structure, often with choppy time changes which in less careful hands could lead to unseemly chaos. Yet there is no hint of pretension here; the strength of the songwriting and sense of cohesion Mothers have tonight pulls them through the potential minefield that such ambitious music must navigate.
Its hard to pick out standout moments or songs, since much of what they play appears to be unreleased, but it should be enough to say that the final song, just Leschper on her own with a guitar, was something rather special. Introducing it as “…a love song”, Leschper proceeds to render the awed audience completely rapt, silent to a person, with a song of such open heartache that my gig partner could only come up with the most basic of summaries: “It made me feel feelings and have wet eyes”. And if that isn’t enough for you then I don’t know what is. This is a band deserving of your attention, and I for one await their so-called difficult second album with bated breath.
Watch the video for ‘Too Small For Eyes’ below