What exactly is creepfunk? You’d have to ask the originators of the concept, Steez – a jamband out of Wisconsin. Apparently, the five-piece believes so strongly in this brand of funk—which includes electronic and improvisational undertones—that they’ve decided to embark on a crusade to spread it.
But the best definition of aforementioned creepfunk comes most clearly by way of the first moments of Creepfunk Crusade’s opening cut, “Trouser Snakes.” A Galactic-style groove, dripping with a synth-laden bass line and interspersed with horn blasts, collides with a breakdown thick in Middle Eastern tonalities, and then moves to a loosely improvised segment of music with sweeping piano builds. Here, funk behaves as the base vibe from which the band then takes fanciful expeditions towards progressive, electronic, and just plain different sounds. With a strong throughline that remains a highly danceable funk groove, there’s an astonishing level of cohesion through some rather adventurous sonic sojourns. When it works, that’s creepfunk.
Several passages do make it difficult to fully get into their respective segments of music. In “Wrappin It Up,” break neck changes from a disco-inspired dance-groove, to a surf rock breakdown, to a smooth segment of easy listening funk, prove to be too much. Considering that this transpires within the first minute and a half of the song, these changes are cool in an ‘art for the sake of art’ kind of way, but they’re also jarring, if not distracting, and feel like attention deficit disorder, sonically realized.
But as the album progress, songs take on a more traditional structure. “Saz,” “Scoring Position,” and “Boss Theme” are quintessential funk, along the lines of the Greyboy Allstars or Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Not until their final moments, during what would ostensibly be a jam outro, does there finally seem to be injected a foreign, electronica element. Brass instruments give way to a synthesizer played by Matt Williams, and unmistakably influenced by the work of Pink Floyd’s Richard Wright. Indeed, the key works of “TKO” and “So I Guess I’ll C Ya” (part I) are so reminiscent of Wright’s sound, they immediately conjure the forefathers of psychedelia.
Vocals are scantly utilized throughout the album, focusing attention wholly on instrumentation, and further pushing Steez towards the jamband label. Luckily, instrumental segments are tight, and builds are energetic, though end too soon to be fully realized. However, the studio album should just be a sample of live shows, which would hopefully find the band flexing its jam might, and Steve Neary’s guitar fully exploiting their epic builds to reach screeching heights (as he does so adeptly in “So I Guess I’ll C Ya” part II). Creepfunk Crusade, as is, will prove pleasing to jam lovers, particularly those who hanker for funk, but it also whets the appetite for the release of a live project. Till then, this should do just fine.