On Highway Hypnosis, Eva Moolchan, the artist known as Sneaks, has kept some things, mainly the project’s terse minimalism and firm sense for rhythm. But that’s about it. It would be easy, having listened to Moolchan’s previous two albums under the moniker, 2017’s It’s a Myth and 2015’s Gymnastics (reissued the following year by Merge Records), to believe that this was an entirely different artist.
Highway Hypnosis specializes in trap miniatures with Moolchan nonchalantly soft-rapping over brief, often repetitive tracks—a significant change from the bass guitar-heavy post-punk that previously characterized the sound of Sneaks.
The album’s 13 songs clock in under 30 minutes. While the previous two Sneaks albums were likewise short of the half hour mark, this still marks the project’s longest release by roughly 10 minutes. No song reaches over three minutes, but that brevity serves the songwriting well. On the opener repetition of the title phrase ,“highway hypnosis” begins as a rallying cry and molds into a sort of droning mantra that backs mostly subtle developments in the beat.
Moolchan’s use of repeated vocals as rhythmic accents is a strength of the album and a standout among the fairly straight-forward productions. The chanted vocal hooks propel most of the tracks on Highway Hypnosis to varying extents. That style is especially prominent on “Saiditzoneza” (where bursts of off-white noise highlight the beat) and “Holy Cow Never Saw a Girl Like Her.” The later makes an interesting throwback to Sneaks’ past more than halfway through the album.
“Holy Cow Never Saw a Girl Like Her” features only Moolchan’s voice and a rumbling bass guitar—it’s the first track of the album to clearly include the instrument and helps to connect this release to the project’s previous work. Here, Moolchan’s sharply rhythmic speak-singing hints toward the rapping present throughout most of the album as if it could have been an early demo before the new sound came together.
“And We’re Off” and “A Lil Close” offer two more late-album returns to the post-punk roots of the band before Highway Hypnosis concludes with almost M.I.A.-style pop on “Hong Kong to Amsterdam.” That track, a highlight of the album, showcases Sneaks’ ability to blend pop and hip-hop influences with staccato rhythms.
The tracks that venture into more elaborate productions, like “Hong Kong to Amsterdam,” the slo-mo, reggaeton stomper “Addis,” and lite-club anthem “Money Don’t Grow on Trees” are some of the album’s most easily like-able, with the more minimal and repetitive songs becoming uneventful at times. But it’s the diversity of the album as Sneaks flutters between fully electronic hip-hop trips and mildly punk sidetracks that keeps it interesting throughout.