Release Date: January 15th, 2016
To say that an album lacks substance sounds like an insult, but in the case of Molly Drag’s sophomore full-length, ‘Tethered Rendering’, it most certainly is not. The songs lack substance in the sense that they have no worldly mass weighing them down. They’re ethereal. It’s a quality that comes from a self-realization – a realization of one’s place here and now – a quality that lends a lighter-than-air buoyancy.
The album consists of eleven tracks of what could be described as dream folk, sung gently (in almost a whisper in some cases) by Michael Charles Hansford (aka Molly Drag). Even on this over-simplified level, the record can be thoroughly enjoyed as a collection of well-crafted, lovely songs. But ‘Tethered Rendering’ works its true magic on a more rarefied level, an accomplishment that Hansford deftly achieves with subtle touches.
Although “I Found a Gun in Montreal” features a definite beat and a folkish acoustic guitar at its centre, the song is prevented from touching solid ground by a rich layer of heavenly harmony vocals. “Rabbits” is given an ambient vibe courtesy of a light dose of electronics, and the strange backing vocals makes things that much quirkier. Even the relatively simple and stark “Levi Simon Trail” is treated to some odd ‘singing saw’ sounds.
All of these masterfully clever touches by Hansford has the album sounding more like a work of experimental ambience. Even his vocals are not as direct and prominent as you’d expect from a work of folk pop. His voice is certainly emotive, but it is so letharic that it almost seems as if he doesn’t care whether you are paying attention (but, of course, you are). This is not listlessness, however, but more a case of Hansford being content to float in the moment. Although he may reminisce on a couple of tracks (e.g. “Levi Simon Trail”, “It Manifested”) ‘Tethered Rendering’ is more about Hansford coming to terms with the person he realizes he has become and he relishes the release that realization brings.
For us, the record is an almost endless discovery as each listen reveals a new wispy layer of subtle complexity. It is laughably early to be talking about the year’s best Canadian albums, but when the time does come around this one should be given hefty consideration.