RIYL: Slint, Unwound, Daughters
This is the first full length album from Sprain, a California based band, having only released an EP (self titled) in 2018 before this. The band has played with Duster and has often been compared to the band especially following the release of their first EP , but that shouldn’t fool you because this album has a far more aggressive sound.
Just by looking at the album cover you get an apt description of what you will hear. Throughout the album you are subject to an alienating and complex design of sound surrounded by negative space. Now, if this doesn’t sound appealing to you, I definitely would not recommend this. However, if you are the kind of person who enjoys more abrasive sound, stay tuned.
The harsh tone of the album is carried very well through the instrumentation. To focus on the guitars, if you would compare most math rock guitar styles to “twinkly stars”, then you could consider the guitar on this album to be more like meteors. The guitar mixes really bright harmonically pleasing moments with vast amounts of dissonant noise. As for the bass, it flows throughout the album as a kind of tether to rhythmic ground, leading the guitar out and back in from each of its noisey outbursts.
Compositionally, the album wafts between chaos and calm. These waves of noise are the bread and butter of the album, with occasional shrieking bolts of anger, like on the track “Everything”. Another great example of this can be found on the second track “My Way Out”. This repeated pattern makes for a well composed and cohesive, but also suspenseful album.
Lyrics are a slight weak point on this album. It mostly repeats pessimistic themes about how meaningless and hopeless life is, which, OK it fits perfectly with the sound, but it doesn’t really say anything too new. The redeeming part of the lyrics is that the prose is clever in some spots, but at most points on the album it really isn’t shooting for a Nobel prize. With that being said about the lyrics, they are mostly buried by the instrumentation, sonically only really accenting the album. The vocals themselves switch between whispers, lazy moaning, and yelling, keeping consistent with the album’s ebb and flow between aggression and peace.
As good as this album is, there is nothing too innovative or new. It is very similar to other post-rock and post-hardcore bands with a touch of added agression. Even though it isn’t entirely groundbreaking, everything it does, it does well.