Freewheeling Chicago band Snooze play math rock like they’re trying to be inexplicable. They’re fans of emo, metal, and prog, and though that’s comfortably ordinary in this subgenre, I’d be hard-pressed to think of another such group who’ve opened an EP by segueing quickly from a distorted electronic hodgepodge reminiscent of footwork into a soothing polyrhythm (2017’s Actually, Extremely) or who’ve prefaced a whimsical, whiplash-inducing romp with a honeyed a cappella melody (“Amicus Pawsterum,” off 2019’s Familiaris). Snooze’s technical proficiency allows them to precisely execute bizarre musical blends in outre time signatures at high speeds, but that’s also comfortably ordinary in this subgenre—what makes the band stand out is how effectively they signal that their first priority is having fun.
That makes Snooze’s excellent new EP, Still (Choke Artist), especially bittersweet. Longtime bassist Cameron Grom died in March at age 28, after spending the past two years soldiering through health problems that left him unable to work and pushed his body to its limits. He went semi-public with his illness in October 2019, when he launched a GoFundMe to cover the cost of two major surgeries. Snooze are now down to just one full-time member, guitarist-vocalist Logan Voss, who recorded the lion’s share of Still. He found a key collaborator in session drummer Anup Sastry, whose fastidious playing complements the band’s tightly engineered drive. As per usual for Snooze, Still never lingers on a definable mood for long, which benefits its emotionally complicated material. Grom wrote the straightforward, harrowing lyrics to “Feels Bad” after a hospital scare, and the sliver of warmth that alto saxophonist Lucia Sarmiento hurls against the tide of chugging riffs at the song’s climax feels like hope slicing through a sea of grief. Voss plans to use the proceeds from Still to adopt a tree in Grom’s memory in Grayslake’s Central Park, not far from where Grom lived in north suburban Round Lake Beach. v