In a previous time, we may have never heard the music of Eva Moolchan. Originally released last year via cassette on Sister Polygon and Danger Records, Gymnastics is a ten track/fourteen minute recording of deceptively simple and engaging post-punk. Something as unassuming as that can easily go without notice, ending up a footnoted favorite of the scant fortunate fans in her homebase of Washington DC. In this era, good word travels fast and undiscovered music becomes the latest curio for a future-only news cycle and the FOMO generation. Smaller online outlets (including this one) were appropriately charmed by her singular creation as the buzz of Moolchan’s intriguing recording and live act spread all the way to Merge Records. This combination of The xx’s minimalism and Minutemen’s imminence is not the obvious frontrunner for a breakthrough to a major indie label. When something this fascinating comes from nowhere, we don’t question. We listen with intention.
Drums. Bass. Vocals. Two words. In other hands, this is an early sketch recorded on a home 4-track, even a pre-demo before studio tricks are applied. For Sneaks this is a fully realized song in “No Problem”, putting an exclamation point on the well-earned minimalism tag. Listen through Gymnastics multiple times (it is easy to do) and another descriptor that comes to mind: anxious. The cold, automated beat is often at racing speeds, juxtaposing Moolchan’s effortless intonations and making for some restless listening. “Tough Luck” is the perfect album warm up, with playful low end bending and bouncing around the bounded audio space as the rhythm set an expected pace. The parallel to Talking Heads aside, “True Killer” is the one that lingers long. “A lot of things/ I cannot do/ But I’m a sinner/ And none of it’s true” works with the similar detached nervousness of the Heads’ best tracks.
When Moolchan abandons the beat on “Down In The Woods”, the creepiness gets ratcheted as she fires off excitable bass lines like automatic warning shots. She adds some chimes and keyboard squelch to “Someone Like That” as an experiment in breaking her own predetermined rules. With finishing Gymnastics, Moolchan leaves some unanswered questions on the future direction of Sneaks. Will Sneaks add instruments or keep the recipe to only the most spare of ingredients? Could she stretch a song out for some artsy investigating or hover around that charming fleeting 90 second mark? Will Sneaks add membership and allow for for input on this self-described selfish vision? Those queries will answered in due time as the follow up is slated for 2017. For now, enjoy Sneaks’ exercise in brevity, fundamentals, and cool.
Gymnastics is out September 9th. It is available for preorder now.