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Sneaks - "Highway Hypnosis" | Album Review


by Jordan J. Michael (@jordwhyjames)

Any music that is championed by Katie Alice Greer (vocalist of Priests) is a safe bet. Eva Moolchan started Sneaks alongside college studies in Baltimore, releasing the first Sneaks cassette in 2014. Greer, who put the tape out through her Sister Polygon label, had been in a duo, Shitstains, with Moolchan; Greer played drums and Moolchan played guitar and vocalized. Shitstains has two songs on Bandcamp and goes with the motto of “fuck u also.” Those are Sneaks’ origins, and it is a telling lead for Sneaks’ short, minimal trip sessions.

It’s tough to make art that is wholly unique these days; Sneaks is a mix I haven’t really heard before, different elements coming in and out. There’s enough space on Highway Hypnosis to allow for endless thoughts of what to call the music Sneaks makes, grabbing for descriptions that may not formulate. This is what I’ve got: wonky funk, skitter-funk, minimal club bang, hopscotch alt-soul, or saucy trap. Grasping for straws here, in all the best ways. Sneaks has spoken-word gibberish, weird voices and noises made from who knows what, possibly field recordings. Moolchan speaks her own language (“Saiditzoneza”) and likes to repeat words in the lyrics, creating hypnosis. 

The bouncy, slow bass over Highway Hypnosis’ 13 tracks and 29 minutes is uniquely anchored by the aforementioned sounds. It’s a dripping faucet (“Highway Hypnosis”), a noise you could make with your mouth (“Suck It Like a Whistle”), or a tiny hand drum (“Money Don’t Grow on Trees”). Sneaks does some dub shit (“Addis”), evokes early Beastie Boys with live guitar-bass-drums (“And We’re Off”), and bangs one for the club (“A Lil Close”). All these different components could create something too scattered, but Moolchan maintains a cohesive, murky fizz. 

Having a voice with a hint of M.I.A., Sneaks could be a reminder of how M.I.A. started out on Arular in 2005. However, equal portions of inside mind, hacky sack, Warped Tour, stars, checkers and clouds save Highway Hypnosis from being comparable to anything. Moolchan has had the Merge vehicle for three releases now -- Gymnastics (2016) and It’s a Myth (2017) previously -- and Highway Hypnosis expands on time and ambition. 

Conclusion “Hong Kong to Amsterdam” falls seven seconds short of 3:00; it’ll be interesting to hear what Sneaks can do with three-plus minutes. The possibilities seem oodles. “Shake your body, get to the groove, ya,” Moolchan says, later chanting “long live Sneaks.” Throw horns up in the dead woods of winter and float.