by Max Freedman (@anticlimaxwell)
The deluxe edition is a fabled treasure of sorts, a repackaging primarily intended for those already emotionally invested in an album’s original story and sound. More often than not, a record label will wait until the next year, whether this is two or eight months away, to even flirt with the idea of a deluxe edition; this achieves extra press coverage and perhaps even radio play for the artist, and gives enough time for the original album to have impacted a vast number of people.
Mothers is issuing its debut album’s deluxe edition a mere five months after its original release, which is fitting for a band that’s cultivated an audience by breaking trends and pursuing solely what they believe in. Back in February, the Athens, Georgia four-piece released When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired to exceptional acclaim and fanfare; five months later, the eight songs comprising it still surprise with their sudden shifts from subdued passages of confessional beauty to frantic bursts of technically complex rock mayhem. The album’s new deluxe edition adds five songs to the mix, most of which focus on the softer realm that Mothers’ songs tend to start in, before booming forth with a chaotic scramble.
Two of the deluxe edition’s songs should already be familiar to Mothers’ extant fan base. The first, “Accessory Cloud,” is a classically Mothers dirge, its dusty arrangements moving in and out of slightly tamer passages; the second, “Mother and Wife,” is significantly more introspective and distant. The former song has appeared here and there in Mothers’ live sets these last few months, and the latter ended Mothers’ recent NPR Tiny Desk session. A fitting choice to tie the bow on this huge achievement in Mothers’ young career, as it exemplifies much of this deluxe edition: outside “Accessory Cloud,” these five songs linger in the hymnal dream-space of somberness and loss on which When You Walk… songs such as “Too Small for Eyes” and “Nesting Behavior” gravitated.
Take “Get Around” as a prime example: a dim mandolin riff guides Kristine Leschper’s distinctly delicate vocals through a nuanced exploration of dreams. The song is a clear parallel to “Too Small For Eyes,” yet it’s not a Leschper solo tune like its forebear; Matt Anderegg’s faint drums offer a breathing pulse, emphasizing the role Leschper’s chosen bandmates play in her creativity. “Paradise at Last” feels born of the same ideas as “Get Around,” although it relies on a synth line in a way that Mothers never experimented with on the original album. “Paradise” is a rather Leschper-focused tune, a slightly more band-heavy version of which comes in the form of “Easy as Possible”; here, it seems that a few synths (or are those guitars?) appear. Mothers master the art of erasing timbre to create a beautiful trance – melodies intertwine to form beds upon which we hear Mothers experiment with vocal modulation in a way they never have before.
When You Walk…’s deluxe edition is essentially a collection of experiments that see Mothers attempting slight alterations to their established sound. What it isn’t is a reflection of where Mothers’ next album is likely to go: anyone who’s caught their live show these past many months may have noticed a handful of new songs that are far more explicitly influenced by Leschper’s math rock idols such as Tera Melos and Hella. If beloved When You Walk… outtake “No Crying in Baseball” were an A-side to a 7” of lost songs from the Mothers’ archive, this deluxe edition would form its diametrically opposed B-side. Even lyrically, the contrast is stark: “No Crying” is all beckoning and force via abstract lyrical commands, whereas the deluxe edition’s lyrical focus hovers closer to what the original album established. “I like us better/where I am bold/and you are honest,” Leschper sings softly on “Paradise at Last.” Good on Mothers for remaining bold and honest, entirely true to themselves, on this deluxe edition, even as they shift their ever-winding gears.