No matter what definition of “creep” you try to apply to the admittedly funky music played by Madison, Wisconsin’s Steez, it seems like a somewhat arbitrary prefix that probably just sounded cool and stuck, but I’ll give the band a break on semantics because its music is damn good. Does the music creep up on you? Not really; its basis is pretty straightforward, Galactic-style groove with a dash of techno, with some outstanding brass hooks, a good mix of strummed and picked guitar and a fat but busy four-string. In most cases, even if this type of mélange catches fire live, it ends up as faceless funk on record. Give Steez credit for bucking the trend with some truly memorable songs.
The secret ingredient is a lot more synth atmospherics than you might expect, whether it’s Keith Emersonian Moogisms, 80s Casioporn, jamtronic beats or smooshed fuzz-bombs. The keys sometimes ride a shaky tightrope to just barely avoid toppling into cheez, but once the songs grow on you (quickly), you realize every flourish fits. It’s too bad about the colorless bass mix; they tried a lot of different flavors and most just don’t quite jive, but it doesn’t undermine the party. Even though Steez predominantly exudes that funkstrumental glow, I’m hoping for some more of these hazy, warm harmony vocals from “Rufio” on the next record. For now, I’ll just shake my booty contentedly.