Sprain’s new album As Lost Through Collision is out on September 4th via The Flenser.
Though the days of artists getting branded as “sell-outs” for softening their edges are mostly relegated to the past it’s not yet uncommon for blades to dull as acts mature. Rare is the case that a band grows more aggressive as time passes. Even more rare is a band with a debut as quiet as Sprain’s 2018 self-titled EP to add so much volume so quickly. The first three seconds of their newest LP As Lost Through Collision are more vicious than every track of their previous EP compressed into a single file.
How much of a surprise this is depends on much you argue hindsight is twenty-twenty. Formed as a two-piece slowcore act by Alex Kent and April Gerloff, Sprain’s debut EP was an undistilled shot of serotonin-deprived slowcore. Indebted to acts like Duster and Slint the self-titled showed promise in Sprain’s proficiency with the slow and the sad. Shortly afterwards Sprain expanded from a duo to a four piece, adding a new guitarist and drummer, providing more avenues for sonic expression. Late last year the band signed to The Flenser, the dark music label housing artists such as Have A Nice Life, Street Secs, and Planning for Burial. In other words, each step the band has made in the past two years seems geared towards a more callous aesthetic.
As Lost Through Collision is, as Sprain claim, a representation of their true state. While their self-titled was strictly slowcore, As Lost Through Collision is a reflection on 90s post-hardcore and noise rock. Sprain mine the decade of its disparate genres and personifications of frustration to sew a tough quilt of experimental rock. Reaping a broader batch of influences – think Unwound and Drive Like Jehu – Sprain are no longer constrained by slowcore’s minimalism.
Indeed the band has pulled the inverse of a snake shedding its skin. Sprain developed more layers, buffing their already sleek exterior husk while maintaining a slowcore base. In fact, their slowcore is more refined. The subtle piano on ‘My Way Out’ provides a fuller texture than anything on their debut. As ‘My Way Out’ continues Sprain slowly strip away what minimal elements were remaining until all that stands is Alex Kent’s whisper, singing as if already defeated, and a lonely bass note. The band soon returns with a mighty exhalation. Sadly it’s a climax hamstrung by the vocals. They’re buried too deep, dripping with too much lethargy to add to the surrounding cacophony. As such ‘My Way Out’ closes as if it’s too bogged down by mud to finish its marathon.
Sprain are at their best when they’re bounding from genre to genre. Both ‘Slant’ and ‘Worship House’ run the gamut of noise rock, post-hardcore, and slowcore – each in half the time of As Lost Through Collision’s other tracks. They’re athletic songs that present a more feral Sprain. ‘Slant’ and ‘Worship House’ display a dynamism that postulates a more defined identity for the group outside of their influences. A tighter focus benefits Sprain by retaining only the most vital components of their compositions. Conversely, ‘My Way Out’ and ‘Everything’ could profit from this mentality. The former would serve better as a strictly slowcore track, whereas ‘Everything’ houses twelve minutes of drone into its fifteen minute runtime, yet said droning doesn’t take shape until the last minute.
As Lost Through Collision shows Sprain understanding how to more accurately translate themselves into their music. They are tighter, more refined, and leagues more dynamic than they were two years ago. As ‘Constant Hum’ hammers out a single note ad infinitum, the journey through the valleys of bleakness feels better served by Sprain’s newfound heaviness.
Pre-order As Lost Though Collision via Bandcamp.