It only feels right that my first blog of 2023 is a release from my one of my all-time favourite labels Sonic Cathedral. Back in 2019 they introduced us to Innsbruck based Austrian duo MOLLY. Lars Andersson and Phillip Dornauer created a stunning debut in All That Ever Could Have Been. That album soundtracked a large part of 2019 for me and remains a turntable favourite to this day. Now they have returned with their sophomore release, Picturesque. This time around the band is focusing their sound across six tracks. The great news for the listener is that some of these tracks are sprawling epics to get swept away by. As a fan of post rock that fills me with excitement.
Andersson, when asked about the themes he wrote about on the album had this to say.
“Every time I go to a museum and I’m about to pass through the era of Romanticism I stop in awe,” says Lars of the enduring appeal of the 18th century artistic movement. “Whatever it is – stories, paintings, music – it triggers something deep within me, something profoundly human. It really hits a nerve, and it utterly immerses me to a point where I can’t move.”
“The album replicates this feeling; a gloriously over-the-top blend of Slowdive and Sigur Rós, mixed with the single-mindedness of Daniel Johnston and the noisiness of Nirvana, it’s as bold and beautiful and every bit as ornate as the art that inspired it.”
So, with those words ringing in our ears let’s drop the needle and get in amongst it.
The album opens strong with soaring ballad ‘Ballerina’. Immediately I’m struck by the production. It’s multi layered, dreamy swells and heavenly vocals all the way. This is the perfect introduction to the album. When the song explodes into its static laced outro with Andersson’s falsetto feathering the peripheries of the soundstage you really sit up and take notice.
Breathless we head into track two. With ‘Metamorphosis’ we start to appreciate the scale of the bands vision for this album. What we are presented with is, essentially, a 12-minute musical suite in three distinct movements. “Picturesque, how you breathe your last breath” trills Andersson over, what sounds like, an angelic choir. This opening vocal movement is measured and sure-footed guiding us carefully towards part two. An instrumental, ambient wash forms the second movement as the song ushers the listener through a metamorphosis of our own. It’s the closing movement which gets me. Every single time it leaves me, jaw opened staring at the speakers. It gathers all the musical themes explored on the track and sends them soaring heavenwards.
The first single from the album ‘The Golden Age’ comes pulsing out the ether yet. Utilising a really unusual, almost military like drum motif it immediately stands out from the previous two tracks. There’s an other-worldliness pervading the very DNA of this song. From the wash of guitars to the frenetic spoken word vocals there’s something that carries you off to distant corners of your imagination. As always Molly are masters of the crescendo building and building the waves, momentum gathering and releasing leaving the song and the listener spent. See what I mean here.
‘Sunday Kid’ takes the pace down a notch with a more bucolic, nostalgic tone. Less a ballad and more a lullaby the soothing effect of the song is palpable. For such a simple song there are still layers of sounds at play. It’s a real skill to make such complexity so sound so straightforward on the surface. The effected vocal and organ work beautifully in combination to drive that feeling of calm and peace.
Refreshed we move into ‘So To Speak’ on an exquisite vocal intro. Andersson himself drew Sigur Ros comparisons in his description of the album. There is certainly something in his voice reminiscent of Jonsi but to say it’s that and nothing else is doing him a massive disservice. There’s a deeper timbre at play lending his voice a greater range of expression and emotion to my ear. That range is showcased throughout ‘So To Speak’. From the potent intro to the, ultimately abrupt, closing this song is a wonderful microcosm of all things Molly.
The album closes out with ‘The Lot’. I mentioned in my intro that this album contained sprawling epics. There’s no better way to introduce this incredible piece to you. It opens dark and brooding, drums pulsing in the background as guitars slowly swell into a fuzzed-out reverie. We are cloaked in this darkness for at least half the song before we emerge into this glorious, soaring moment. That falls away all too soon as we finish our musical journey on a minimalist almost exhausted guitar piece. And then, it’s over.
With Picturesque Molly have taken the soundscapes from All That Ever Could Have Been and refined, honed and evolved to a level that belies this groups tender years. The album oozes a confidence and ease of performance that lets you know that you are in safe hands. That for the next hour or so you can relax and let Molly take you on a journey into their magical world. It’s a journey I went willingly on and will go again. The production of this album hides lots of neat surprises for a vigilant listener meaning Picturesque will yield new and deeper pleasures on every listen. That, for me, is the mark of a future classic.
Picturesque is available now on Sonic Cathedral from Bandcamp and on a special Dinked vinyl edition from participating indie record stores.
You can follow Molly on social media here.
Photo’s courtesy of Niko Havnarek