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Since its formation in 2018 by like-minded Calarts students Alex Kent (guitar, vocals), April Gerloff (bass), and Sylvie Simmons (guitar), as well as the recent addition of Clint Dodson (percussionist), Los Angeles-based quartet Sprain has honed its signature flavor of experimentalism to a razor-fine point. Gradually moving from twisting conventions in its early works of minimalist slowcore to now transcending the confines of genre altogether, Sprain’s evolution over the past several years has encouraged the band to embrace a sound true to its muse. With its latest record, The Lamb As Effigy or Three Hundred And Fifty XOXOXOS For A Spark Union With My Darling Divine, the band has translated this intent into an ambitious work that pairs its resplendent scale with uncompromising honesty towards the band’s artistic and conceptual essences.
The most extraordinary of art isn’t created without its fair share of trials, of which Sprain faced numerous during the recording process of The Lamb As Effigy, with the sum and circumstances of them nearly sealing the album’s fate in limbo. With obstacles including session reschedulings as a result of a line-up change and a major studio electrical failure at the last possible moment, a mixing process that demanded the organization of several years of material across four separate studios, and the recording of the actual songs pushing the members of Sprain to their own physical limits, there were several times where the band considered scrapping the whole thing altogether. But Sprain persevered, applying the knowledge and willpower derived from those struggles to get The Lamb As Effigy across the finish line.
Clocking in at nearly two hours, The Lamb As Effigy resembles an aural parallel to the human experience itself, with all the glorious beauty, crushing brutality, and unexplainable chaos that comes with it intact. Explosions of earth-sundering guitars, angelic keys, swirling strings, and bursts of improvised electronic noise coalesce to weave a visceral yet unique sonic tapestry bearing hints of no-wave, sound collage, 20th-century avant-garde, and free jazz. Spanning bellowing howls, emphatic spoken word, and nuanced croons, Alex Kent’s dynamic vocal delivery adds texture to these eight meditations on otherwise immaterial topics and the meaning or the lack thereof they embody.