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Sprain reflect torment with avant-grade virtue on the benchmark The Lamb As Effigy

"The Lamb As Effigy"

Release date: 01 September 2023
Sprain The Lamb As Effigy cover
01 September 2023, 09:00 Written by Noah Barker

Cede yourself to the current, and it will belong to you.

Whatever that figures into the cosmic scale of sound is a mystery; sometimes it includes letting a good idea run its course and bow out for euthanasia when it should, but at other times, the idea is the beginning of some long con. Each track on Sprain’s masterstroke sophomore record The Lamb As Effigy opens with a genealogy of sound unbeholden to what tortured entity it will grow into. Ideas and noise palettes sift minute-by-minute, sometimes 25 minutes per track, until Sprain decides the song has died. It results not in pretentious rattling with misappropriated openings, but in unbound creativity, an avant-garde wave crashing into itself in increasingly more profound ways.

Subversion is the key militaristic tactic on this record; the opening track “Man Proposes, God Disposes” sets a well-laid trap of an expectation. Its galloping, angular groove and prophetic poetry evolve into raucous instrument-breaking and collapse on themselves multiple times, as if it's a wounded animal struggling with the concept that it should stay grounded. The pounding dread of the following “Reiterations” presents a melodic tilt in a brash format; one has to crawl through a mile of barbed wire to get to the gentle strings bringing one to rest as the track concludes. The expectations of no-wave and noise rock, while being prodded so far with scrupulous intent, are at this point in the tracklist obliged to dissipate entirely.

“Privilege of Being” presents the first of many droning moments on the record, one who’s ornate hell of a sound palette gains more texture with every listen. Strings teeter on the edge of glass and ear-piercing noise interjects with delicacy. Existential pain is evident as a theme not just from the astonishing, literary lyrics, but also from the fact that the noise can run so shrill that at points it can be physically painful to hear- at any volume. “Margin for Error,” the 24-minute centerpiece, begins as an orgasmic organ drone, but climaxes for the last 10 of its minutes with wailing siren guitars and crashing cymbals. At one point, I remarked to myself that I really enjoyed the ringing instrument at the top of the mix; it was only later that I realized my ears had been ringing and had assumed it was part of the piece.

Twin ballads “The Commercial Nude” and “The Reclining Nude” convert acoustic guitars and pianos, respectively, into instruments of unyielding tension. Oftentimes notes will reverberate alone to an extent of time just north of discomforting; one wonders if the band knows they’re still here, as if the listener is hearing something they’re not privy to. The climaxes and structures of each track are ironclad in their satisfaction yet languorous. The closer “God, or Whatever You Call It” descends for its 12-minute second half into acapella shouting and crying, until the final revelry of noise closes the track. It gives off the impression that the songs as they are may not be some conclusive characterization of an idea, but a moment in their time the listener is let into.

Whether or not one finds value in this record is dependent on how interesting that comes across. Getting nothing out of art does not mean it's ‘bad’ art, as, a selection of the time, nothing can be the end goal. Like the colour of white, so much can be crashing around the idle ears of the listener that it results in an empty tranquility, a composite of everything into nothing. There is an electricity in bearing witness to these tracks that can only be articulated while gauging the breadth of their cinematic, painful majesty for oneself. As standard structure and conventions of popular music peel off and drift away like flakes of dead skin, what the artist is left with is the undercurrent. Cede yourself to the noise and the destruction belongs to you, and all the requisite beauty thereafter.

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