Clam – Sproingg
After a good 3 years the three-piece outfit and band that go by the name of Sproingg, have finally SPRUNG! their way back into action with their next ZANY! musical adventure and second studio album to date entitled Clam. My first encounter with this musical trio came back in July 2017 when I was contacted and approached by the bands drummer Erik Feder asking me if I would review their self-titled debut album they had released back then.
To be perfectly honest when I set up this blog site I did so solely to review the music I go out and buy myself. I had no idea people would take that much of an interest and I would get musicians from all over the world chucking their latest creations at me wanting me to review it as if it was one of those many sites or magazines that write about such things.
In many ways I do feel quite touched by it especially with my lack of school education due to hating and bunking off 4 years from it. I am hardly the brightest person on the planet and far from the best person to be around when it comes to being in a social conversation and can be quite shy at times and can be as quiet as a mouse. Unless the conversation is about music and then you won’t shut me up 😁😁😁
Though I will say that the music does have to speak and appeal to my taste in the first place for me to want to speak about it. The fact that the music that Erik had presented to me 3 years ago was right up my street or alley so to speak, is the very reason I did not have to turn him away. As a matter of fact, turning the music of Sproingg away would be a bit like turning my back on the likes of King Crimson and Frank Zappa and that is something I could never do.
Sproingg are very much an instrumental band that reside in Germany to which two thirds of the band are German the latter third Erik Feder is American and is often seen as the spokesman of the band. It’s very much a prog-fusion band that take their time developing their music over so many years, structuring and piecing it together out of improvisations and jams. Further developing it into something more of a composition that they can finally bring to the table and present on an album and also be able to go out and play it live.
This is very much a 3-piece outfit that impressed me when I first heard them 3 years ago and I still very much think their self-titled debut album was well worthy of the 10 out of 10 rating I gave it. You can find that review should you wish to read it here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/lee-speaks-about-music-20/ and it is an album worth checking out.
Now that the long-anticipated wait is over and their second album has finally arrived. The question is have the band managed to come up TRUMPS! once again? Well. before I delve deeper into the new album and answer that question let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.
The Packaging & Artwork…
The CD comes in a 2-panel cardboard Digipak very much the same as their debut album did back in 2017. I do prefer this packaging myself and it shows the band care about presentation and it looks a lot neater than a standard plastic Jewel Case and is more like a mini replica of a Gatefold Vinyl album cover.
I pre-ordered the CD package from Bandcamp on the 7th of September and it SPROINGGED! through my letter box a week after the official release date which was quite good considering it was coming from Germany. The good thing is that you also get the Digital Download included with the price of the CD so I was able to enjoy the album whilst waiting for it to arrive and get to work on my review.
The artwork and design were once again done by the bands bass player Johannes Korn and he’s basically created the album cover out of a collage of very strange people, hands, fingers, thumbs and a nut. I have to confess it was driving me nuts trying to figure out how it ties in with the albums title. For example, the word “Clam” originally originated from a Clam-Shell basically because it clamps together. It can also be short for the word “Clamp”.
But over the years it’s also been used in slang terms for a dollar and also in the case of a reluctant person who refuses to speak can be said to clam up so to speak. The latter of those two is perhaps the more logical meaning behind the albums title. But whatever it is, just like the artwork for their debut album I quite like it.
The bands new album Clam is available to purchase on Bandcamp in 2 formats the cheapest option being the Digital Download priced at 7 Euro. The physical CD is priced at 10 Euro plus postage & packing and whatever taxes Bandcamp add onto the price.
The tax will also apply to the Digital Download as well so bare that in mind but in general its around 1 Euro (82p UK). I am pretty sure the p&p is around 3 Euro and I ended up paying 14 Euro (13.02 UK) for the CD which is about the right price I would expect to pay for an imported physical product from Europe.
The band have also included a couple of discount packages for this release where you can save yourself a bit of money in obtaining both their debut album and Clam together. They have also included a 1-hour live concert video they have entitled The Hottest Hour for free in both of these packages.
The “All the Sproingg you can eat” discount digi-combo pack contains both albums plus the video in the form of a Digital Download and is priced at 15 Euro. Alternatively, the “All the Sproingg you can eat” discount combo pack contains the both physical CD’s and video and is priced at 22 Euro. The video is only in the form of a Digital Download only and all the instructions of how to obtain it are described the details of each package.
Hottest Hour Video Promo
The band have also uploaded a promotional video of their Hottest Hour live concert to their Youtube channel as you can see above. You can also purchase the digital download of the live video on its own for 5 Euro which is something I most likely will do later on. All the bands music you can also listen to for free or purchase @ Bandcamp from the link here: https://sproingg.bandcamp.com/
The Album In Review…
Sproingg’s latest album Clam was released on Sunday the 20th September 2020. The album itself contains 8 instrumental tracks spread over and overall playing time which is a tad under an hour at 59 minutes, 58 seconds. Although I much prefer the old album time slot from the 70’s of around 40 minutes (to which even their debut album was done over that more considerable time slot) they have utilised the extra time quite well and it does not feel overcooked.
Sunday is perhaps a strange day to release an album and the biggest majority of artists normally release their albums on a Friday. There was a time when I thought the album was not going to make its release date because it was not released until 10:53 pm here in the UK. I spent most of that day eagerly awaiting its arrival and, in the end, had to download it and put it on my phone to listen to in bed. So, it was not until the early hours of the next day that I got to finally hear it.
The reason for the delay may of been down to them playing a special gig the night before to promote the release of the CD and they may of all got a bit intoxicated celebrating it 😁😁😁. I am not sure how they managed to arrange it especially in light of the present situation with the Coronavirus but I am sure it may have been carefully arranged and above board to fit in with the social distancing procedures, and perhaps they played the gig to a small group of friends.
As I mentioned in my introduction the band Sproingg do take a lot of time developing their music to get it to where it is and to a level where they feel it’s good enough to put out. All 3 members of the band also contribute to the music and they work very well collectively as a team.
There is no doubt that all 3 members of the band have learnt their instruments very well to be able to play them at an accomplished level and they are really GREAT! musicians. Though they do not take it too seriously and like to inject some fun into it and you can see in the picture above they all look happy enough to be doing what they do.
Playing live is also vitally important for the band especially given the time it takes them to put out an album. It’s perhaps their only way of letting people know you are still out there and active. Back in December of 2019 the band did release a one-off improvisation entitled “Antetonkel” that they recorded on the spare of the moment in the rehearsal studios.
I did listen to the improvised piece a few times although it spoke to me more like a jam over its 8 minutes and was travelling along the same path or over the same ground without really going anywhere else. Which was not to my liking and why I never bothered downloading it even for free.
However, if you were to listen to some of the earlier improvisations and jams the band did of material that eventually found its way onto their debut album has I had done. I could of said very much the same thing about most of them. But was blown away by how they had further developed them to make the final album what it is.
If you read the description on Bandcamp of “Antetonkel” you will notice that they also stated that the piece would not make it onto their 2nd album but there was a fair chance of it making it on their 3rd album. Which just goes to show how much work they put into a piece before they think it’s finally ready. I could also say the same thing about many of King Crimson’s live improvisations and many of their improv’s were nowhere near as further developed like these guys have gone on to do with them.
2020 has been a tough year for many musicians affecting their livelihood in the case of those who make their living out music alone. The very fact that they can no longer get out there and play live due to the Coronavirus may very well of forced many to write new material and get it out there just to tie them over and put food on the table.
Though Sproingg’s second album Clam is certainly no rush job and I could certainly hear that a lot had been put into it on the couple of tracks you instantly got from the album when I pre-ordered it. The material for the album they had been working on for quite a while and was scheduled to be released this year.
I am pretty sure its band members have regular jobs besides to put food on the table and they and their families would die of starvation if they relied on their music alone to support them like many unknown artists and bands.
Musicians & Credits…
All music composed & improvised by Sproingg. Recorded & Mixed by Erik Feder & Johannes Korn @ Sproingg Central sometime between 2019/20. Cover Design by Johannes Korn.
Prudi Bruschgo: Electric Guitar – Electric Baritone Guitar.
Johannes Korn: Chapman Sticks – Electric Violin.
Erik Feder: Drums.
The Album Tracks In Review…
One of the things I gave a certain amount of credit to on the bands debut album were the titles they chose for the tracks and I thought they was well thought-out, even though they were a bit on the bizarre side of things such as “Sugarwax Nailface” and “And The Mountain Rat Saw God“. I think its hard enough coming up with titles for instrumental pieces and sometimes you do have to dig a bit deeper and be a bit more imaginative.
Quite a few of the titles on their new album Clam have more of a Zany Theatrical feel about them and some are perhaps along the lines of the silly sense of humour you got with the British comedy of Monty Pythons Flying Circus. Some are quite lengthy to and the last track in particular may be an attempt at trying to beat what Roger Water’s did on the 1969 double album Ummagumma 😁😁😁.
As with all instrumental tracks they can be quite a challenge to review each track individually and it is practically impossible to describe them all with every detail. But I shall try my best and I may even throw in my own sense of humour along the way. So let’s now take a closer look to see how the album shapes up as I take you through its tracks.
Track 1. Stuffer Gapes And Drapes His Cape On A Vaping Ape (Including Destiny’s Abortion)
The album opens up with the first of a couple of tracks that have more or less the same bizarre title given to them. According to the description on their Bandcamp page (most likely written by the bands drummer) this opening piece is the first of a couple of Siamese twins that were separated before birth by some 11 days, 16 hours, 47 minutes and 19 seconds.
Reading the description alone I can tell that the band already have this track in mind to take on the road and play live, they may have already played it a few times live already. In many respects the bands drummer Erik is a bit like Peter Gabriel when it comes to preparing for a live show in that they both concoct up and tell some strange story in between the songs whilst the other members of the band are tweaking and tuning their instruments.
Both guitarists Prudi and Johannes have an array of pedals and utilise various effects for most of the bands material so they will need quite a bit of tweaking at times. In the opening section of this piece they may even need a Looper for the repeated couple of lead notes that have either been overdubbed or a Looper might very well have been used for the bass line instead which would allow them both to play the guitar parts.
This particular piece opens up quite mysteriously and both the guitars and drums work their way around Johannes pumping bass line and it runs along in a similar pattern right up to the 3:44 mark to which it comes to halt and brings in the first of two transitional changes.
The first of the transitional changes picks up the pace quite well and we get more structure coming from the bass line whilst Prudi’s guitar is sort of going on a crash course a bit like what Steve Howe was doing in the battle section of “Gates Of Delirium” back in 1974. However, unlike that Yes song Erik’s drums are doing something totally opposite and are not so much bashing it all out and he’s working in some kind of skip beat between the hi-hat and snare to keep a nice tight groove.
This section grinds itself down around 6:18 to bring in the next change which I presume is meant to describe “Destiny’s Abortion” that enters in around the 6:40 mark and this is where it goes into more of a frenzy and you could say they are going ape shit with the vape and steaming up the place 😁😁😁.
Overall, “Stuffer Gapes And Drapes His Cape On A Vaping Ape (Including Destiny’s Abortion)” is a three part piece that sits in the groove and the same pocket of what one would have expected if you had already heard the bands debut album. However, I do not really see it as anything new or better and I personally do not think it’s quite up to par with the material on their debut album. But I do not see it as a bad track either.
Track 2. (Impure Thoughts) Pure Cushion.
In terms of how this next piece is structured it does have way less going on here in relation to the opening track on the album. However, this is a good example of how sometimes less can be more and this is certainly more of an accessible piece and more along the lines of a composition.
It’s very much a piece that features Erik’s drums doing a GREAT! job of putting the ape back into the jungle whilst Prudi’s wayward guitar lines add the right scope for it to make it feel more like an urban jungle sort of thing. It’s a piece that very much opens and closes up with a very effective ambient soundscape created on the pedal board and it instantly has the right effect to draw you into the piece.
It builds itself up quite well to run into the jungle section that runs between 1:50 – 6:59 of the piece. This section is perhaps a bit more urban than the heavier industrial side of things like King Crimson done on their Discipline album back in 1981. According to their own description they describe as a jazz klezmer-polka-waltz romp. Well they certainly are romping it along and in style too and this is a GREAT! track that seems to be over in no time at all.
Track 3. Z’Mörgele.
I have to confess I have no idea what the word “Z’Mörgele” means and I was coming up with Zilch trying to translate it in Googles Translator. Though through my research on Google the word was most commonly associated with Cafes and Restaurants in Switzerland and the images I found mostly associated it with some form of breakfast with fruit. So, I guess it means “breakfast” in Switzerland.
Musically it starts off in a rush as if it was a snack and they was in a hurry to get breakfast out of the way and get on with whatever they had planned for the rest of the day. Erik is the first at the table and he going for a quick roll after which both Prudi and Johannes join in and man these guys are drilling the stuff down their neck 😁😁😁.
The band then slightly change gear over a couple of very slight transitional changes that come into play around the 1:53 and 2:46 mark and then drive it right down very well around the 3:29 mark into more of a smoother change and I quite like how all 3 musicians settle their way into the groove on this section. I also like how they end it all off abruptly by turning up the heat once again but only for a few bars. “Z’Mörgele” is one of my personal favourite tracks and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 4. Lovebird Dogbane Receives Higher Education.
The title of this one according to the description on Bandcamp is self-explanatory. However, as I mentioned in my introduction of how I had a lack of education I was quite puzzled and it had me scratching my head and was a bit like trying to decipher something in a crossword to which I am no good at those either. So, I had to do a bit of research in particular on the word “Dogbane”.
I first discovered that it was a plant known as Indian Hemp that grows throughout much of North America and the southern regions of Canada. This very much gave me the vision of some Lovebird getting stoned out of his head on the stuff 😁😁😁 and I am pretty sure that comical side of looking at it is very much what Erik intended to do with the title here.
The plant itself is poisonous and like many poisonous plants can be used for medical treatments for humans. However, to animals such as dogs and birds the plant can be quite lethal causing them to be sick and even kill them should they eat enough of the plant. Birds are also known for eating insects and the metallic rainbow coloured beetle I chose in the picture above lives on the stuff and is known as a Dogbane Leaf Beetle.
This piece starts off in quite a menacing comical way were all 3 musicians sound a bit like they are doing their own thing over the first 3 minutes, 45 seconds yet regarding the interplay between the drums, bass and guitar it all works very well. The next transition introduces some heavier power chords on the guitar to drive it along over a sluggish pace. They have also created a nice bit of a haunting organ sound on the pedal board that accompanies them along this section every now and then.
The final section comes in around the 5:41 mark and here they have completely slowed things right down and the pedal board effects have been put to fine use. It gets even more mysterious almost alien like in particular with the flutey synth sound played along to a heavy drone effect. Overall, they have done another fine job here.
Track 5. And Her Name Was “Jo-Jo, The Dog-Faced Boy” (Part 1)
This next piece is the shortest track on the album and a little over 3 minutes. They also describe it as a happy-go lucky, ragtime, children’s song. If this is ragtime it’s certainly different to anything Scott Joplin did that’s for sure 😁😁😁. However, I can see where they are coming from and this is a very well arranged piece with some GREAT! progression and very sweet piece of work indeed and one I would also add as another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 6. Progg Is A Five-Letter Word.
By the sounds of the title prog was not foul enough as a 4-letter word and they had to do a bit of Spinal Tap and turn it up a notch. The one thing I will say about it is that it is certainly very PROGMATIC! and this is a very well-crafted and constructed piece of work that not only sits very well and tight in the GROOVE! It also goes down quite a few roads with its progression and transitional changes.
The band describe it has a nostalgic tearjerker, to be honest its quite hard to describe apart from rather than go into any sort of a frenzy the band are very much weaving their way along at a careful steady pace through its many directions. It’s very much another of my personal favourite tracks on the album a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 7. Stuffer Vapes And Drapes His Cape On A Gaping Ape.
This next track comes with the same bizarre title has the opening track on the album, only minus the addition of “Destiny’s Abortion“. You would have thought it would have been somewhat a bit shorter however, this is longest track on album weighing in at 12 minutes. It’s also completely different even though it shares the same title and the only track on the album that features Johannes Korn on electric violin.
It’s a shame really that the violin was not utilised more often on the album because they can be a lot more diverse in their creativity with that instrument and both “No Place For Children” and “Krummfutter” from their debut album injected other influences into their music and are really GREAT! tracks.
There is no doubt the violin gives this band another avenue and direction to go down and it adds a good dose of haunting darkness to their music as you will hear with how well its utilised on this particular piece. The combination of the haunting folk vibe from the violin GELS! very well with Prudi’s crunching metal guitar whilst Erik keeps them both in line and holds the forte on this mystical almost satanic ritual into the dark void. It really is a GREAT! journey to take on over its 12 minutes and another very firm favourite of mine enough to jointly merit the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 8. In A Recent Survey, 4 Out Of 5 Clinically Depressed, Middle-Aged Suburbanites Strongly Preferred New And Improved Jizzo Brand Cream Cheese To A Mortally Wounded Clam.
No doubt the band were trying to beat Roger Waters when they concocted up this lengthy title and this final track is the albums self-titled track. It was from this title where the albums title originated Erik informed me and it was from one his stories he often talks about at the bands live shows. It was also more or less of how I described it in my own description in the artwork section and he did say that he had used many of the same references in his introductory speech to the audience.
This final track goes through a few transitions and over its first minute and 25 seconds they are rocking it out in a bit of a familiar style of The Police back in the late 70’s. It then falls into this mysterious alien like effective section and it sounds like they are either on another planet or they are melting the Jizzo cream cheese 😁😁😁. They then go into another rocked out section around the 2:38 mark and it grinds itself down to a halt at the 3:48 mark and it sounds like it’s all over.
Then after a couple of seconds silence it goes into another mysterious section that perhaps describes the wounded clam mostly done by the playfulness of Prudi’s guitar. It then rolls back into the action with Erik’s drums around the 5:25 and the band more or less go on a frenzy to drive last section home. I quite like the mellotron sound from the pedal board and it does sound like a real mellotron too.
Overall, its perhaps an extraordinary piece to end off the album and its one of those where you can hear how each section was worked on and put together to make it what it is. In terms of its structure it is very much like the opening track on the album with how it was stitched together and even though they are different tracks in some respects you could say the album was bookended and effectively it works that way.
To sum up Sproingg’s second album Clam. The material is quite a bit different in relation to their self-titled debut album and gone are many of the other influences that made that album stand out so well. However, the King Crimson influence still slightly remains and it’s also quite evident that the band are developing and injecting a lot more of their own input and ideas into their music and are creating more of their own unique style which can only be seen as a good thing.
It is the PROGMATIC! fusion side of things that really ties the bands music to the likes of King Crimson more than anything else and its perhaps in that that pocket where their music really sits. It’s very much has they describe it being experimental polyrhythmic chaos and music your mother would not allow you to listen to and if you like your music to be on the weird and adventurous side, this is an album that will be very much up the right end of your street and in the same ball park so to speak.
Clam is perhaps not an album that I would personally recommend to introduce first time listeners to the bands music, and their first album does really show more of what this band are capable of doing. You would be better off listening to that album first to get to know where they are heading now and see how the band are working together as a unit.
Though I touched on how their debut album has more influences from others injected into it, that is far from what makes this band so unique. What I love so much about the bands debut album is how the band have worked so uniquely together has a combined unit even to the stage where the drummers input into the written material plays a pivotal role.
As a matter of fact, most of the tracks on their debut album do feel like they were written around Erik Feder’s drum kit. Even the way his drum kit was tuned is totally different to how they sound on their new album. Johannes Korn’s electric violin also played more of a role and added to much of the diversity and arrangement that made that album work so well and those are perhaps some of the key issues the album Clam is missing and why this album is not so much up to the same strength with its predecessor.
However, there is no questioning the ability of all 3 musicians in the band and Clam certainly has its moments and is far from disappointing and my personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Z’Mörgele“. “Stuffer Vapes And Drapes His Cape On A Gaping Ape“. “Progg Is A Five-Letter Word” and “And Her Name Was “Jo-Jo, The Dog-Faced Boy” (Part 1)“.
To conclude my review of the bands latest album Clam. I personally would not say it was a solid album like their debut album or has the strength of the material that holds that album up so well. However, there is certainly nothing remotely bad and there is enough here to enjoy and get plenty of satisfaction from. Like the bands debut album it’s been very well recorded and produced and the track placement works very well in making the album flow well enough from start to finish.
Regarding my question of have they managed to come up TRUMPS! once again. I personally still think they have, and even though this is a different album there is no denying the bands formidable style is still very evident throughout. The zany titles are still present too though I do think they went to extremes with albums self-titled track 😁😁😁.
Sproingg are very much a PROGMATIC! band that should appeal to most PROGSTERS! and FUSION HEADS! alike and its bands like this that are keeping such GREAT! music still alive today. They have their own approach and own way of presenting their music to you and their 2nd album Clam still has enough on it to deliver the goods and make it well worth buying and I highly recommend you at least check them out.
PROGMATIC FUSION! All Clamped Into A Shell Of Goodness…
The track listing of the album is as follows: