Michael Hansford opens Tethered Rendering, his second full-length release as Molly Drag, with a phrase that echoes throughout the rest of the album: “I just felt dark schemes in my head.” His voice sounds anemic and light-headed; drums dizzily crash until they eventually drown him out and blend into “Thirty Stitched Up Swell” — the most pointed song on the record, and it still feels like it’s moving through molasses. This lethargy serves a purpose: As harrowing and ominous as the masked figure that marks its artwork, Hansford isn’t afraid to confront the darkest of emotions. Or maybe he chooses that route because he is so afraid. That opening line reflects the disquiet of Tethered Rendering as a whole: how plans fall apart, and how life drifts by before you can get steady footing.
Molly Drag builds atmosphere in a gently shifting, organic way that recalls the more muted side of the Orchid Tapes crew. Less concerned with structure and more interested in the experience, Tethered Rendering sounds like a record best consumed when wallowing. It treats memory like a treasure and the unknown like the enemy. On “Levi Simon Trail,” he opens by reminiscing, “Well, that’s fine, I will find the time/ To keep the memory of floating in the water in the middle of summer.” “Rabbits” contains the prescient, damning refrain: “I’m sorry he left/ It will surpass his death.” The country-esque “It Manifested” evokes Bright Eyes, and absorbs all of that band’s nostalgic sentimentality: “Remember way back in high school? When we were the best of friends? Your dad got sick, and the letters we send/ I’ll always be there for you, man.”
Tethered Rendering is tense but unraveling, moody but slowly opening up. In between its talk of horrors and dark angels and demons, there’s something very human that is being affected by all of this: “I am a flawed machine,” Hansford admits on “Choker,” one of the most sparse tracks on the record. “But I’d run with you through the caterwaul.” He follows that up with a warning, or maybe a plea: “You see the good in me, but please don’t forget to love yourself/ I know that life is shit and the world is sick, but you are not.” Dark schemes abound. Listen below.
Tethered Rendering is out 1/15 via Broken World Media.