Mothers – Headrow House, Leeds – 25.08.16
Mothers are a band with two immediate faces; one expresses brilliant musical soundscapes, spitting out ethereal guitar lines in hairpin-bend songwriting, and the other carries the worn lines of a poet. Kristine Leschper backs up her words, staunchly powerful in their own right (“I cut out my tongue /
seeing yours would speak for the both of us” from ‘Lockjaw’ springs to mind), with the band’s beautiful math-rock arrangements – sparse when they need to be, and pulsing with energy in all the right places. It’s all very reminiscent of forbearers like early Modest Mouse and contemporaries like Tall Friend – so naturally I’m excited to see them in a thriving Headrow House this wet Friday evening.
The firmament of the evening is ushered in by local bands Rain.Dance and KELL. Rain.Dance fill the room with a breezing haze of music along the lines of Arthur Russell’s more abstract work, making good use of a simple setup. A clarinet against gently twanging Telecaster arpeggios is met with the shaking of a Tupperware box filled with rice – DIY ethos embodied (towards the end of their set the band offer to auction the rice grain by grain). One of my contact lenses is slightly blurred at this point, deepening the band’s washing fuzziness; a car alarm sounds in the distance for half the set, only slightly out of time, and in the fog of Rain.Dance’s melodic wall it seems like just another element of the tranquil songs. KELL later to choose to embrace the sparse themselves, laying down the foundations for their pop ballads before exploding them out into a similar crescendo-laden dust cloud. Vocalist Katie Heap croons and gasps about cyanide and carbon monoxide in a very Lana Del Rey fashion, laying out her powerful lines with dramatic gesticulations and intense yells.
With grapefruit juice in my hand, we move on to Mothers. Headrow has filled up at this point, setting the stage nicely for the headliners to overshadow the venue’s geometric lights. The band comes on with guitars listing, jarring against eachother – they have a knack for twisting long vocal notes over sparring riffs into a single rope of sound, bending along its length. In ‘Copper Mines’, Leschper cries “this is me mouthing words to you – from the longest distance”, before the band exhales into another tornado bridge in one of the set’s peaks. Lyrics aside, Mothers feel anything but far away in the venue; their presence is full of turmoil and rawness delicately expressed, and impossible to ignore.
Towards the evening’s end, three quarters of the band leave the stage. Leschper is left alone to close out the night’s hum, playing a couple of stripped down numbers with just her guitar and voice. ‘Mother and Wife’, a skeletal forbearer track to LP When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired, brings things to a ruminal descent. Leschper is a visual artist as well as a talented musician and poet, and the accompanying art to that song carries a small note on it: “do you see – some will remain quietly”. The song may leave the room in a quiet sense of disarray and awe, but there’s no risk of the night’s impact dwindling; Mothers leave a mark in their wake.