Until two days ago, The Sprigs had been an absolute mystery to me. I discovered them pretty much accidentally at the mythical Café Oto in London, opening a show for my long time favourites, Laila Sakini and Flora Yin Wong. The only thing that I can really say about the experience of seeing them live is that it was transporting, it lifted me right out of my chair into another space entirely. Their music was the kind of revelation that I imagine is born in the soul of a child when he discovers a life-long passion for the first time.
In a strange way, it feels more accurate to say Sprig’s invented rather than wrote the music on their new CD-R "Before I Glare Up At The Sun Through The Top Soil". It's like listening to the secret soundtrack to the never-published fanzine you always imagined the quiet guy two doors down was working on when you saw a solitary desk lamp glowing through the curtains, late into the night.
All the compositions are bathed in the warm light of gentle enchantment, the musical equivalent of magical realism. They give you the uncanny feeling of being balanced between the familiar and the utterly new: like you suddenly have access to a catalogue of songs that, although you’ve never heard them, you half remember as cherished favourites from a time long past.
"Before I Glare Up At The Sun Through The Top Soil" sounds like that mystical space that opens up between songs at a concert, rather than within them. It has all the force and enchantment of a wonderful accident, the life energy of a robot made of undergrowth, mud and half-dried insect corpses.
This album proves once again (to me, at least) that not everything has been said. The lo-fi positivism that Sprigs emanates in their sound is one more breadcrumb in the trail that leads to the fantastic world of sounds still to be discovered. With the rattling of household utensils, the ghostly spoken word, the submerged guitars, the south London duo seems to extract from a luminous abyss a whole series of elements that together create a sound collage in which getting lost is a vital part of the experience.
Just like the half-familiarity of the imagined The Wind In The Willows scene on Philip Mendoza’s beautifully drawn album cover, Sprigs' music seems to emerge from the hedges and the undergrowth, ready to offer a warm hug of welcome to those who bathe their journey-weary body in its sparkling river of sound.
Maybe that's what Ratty is saying to the downcast Mole: when we seem to be reaching the final horizon, condemned to reside only in the world that we already know, don’t despair. There will always be someone out in front, just past where we ourselves can see, ready with new revelations. This is, I think, what Sprigs are doing on this record, letting us know that the world isn’t tired, that we can still be astonished. Look to the ground, spread the word.