David Grubbs has the kind of distinguished career that no one band or project fully represents his musical output. When his name is mentioned some might think of his ground-breaking work with early math rock innovators Bastro, or others might immediately link Grubbs to his 90’s Chicago post rock group Gastr Del Sol with Jim O’Rourke, while others might first think of Grubbs as a member of mid-80’s Louisville punk band Squirrel Bait with Britt Walford and Brian McMahon pre-Slint, and that still leaves out all the collaborative work Grubbs has done with bands ranging from slowcore pioneers Codeine to math rock visionaries Bitch Magnet to experimental artists like Tony Conrad and Red Krayola. The best way to describe Grubbs’ music is that it is porous and so many different influences, genres, and compositional styles permeate within song to song that it’s easy to say what the music isn’t, but it’s hard to define what it is. Creep Mission continues the David Grubbs tradition of defying expectation and it’s refreshing like a tall glass of water in the desert.
Creep Mission opens with the song “Slylight”, which sets the tone for the album and the introductory section recalls feelings of Gastr Del Sol’s post rock foundations and specifically invokes a build-up that would feel right at home on Gastr Del Sol’s final album Camoufleur. The song features some really great dynamic drumming from Eli Keszler, and while Keszler is featured on every track when he plays on Creep Mission he makes it count. The title track is the second song on the album and at its crescendo is probably some of the heaviest guitar playing Grubbs has done on record since Bastro, and sounds like what happen if Neil Young in his prime was trying to write instrumental math rock with sludgey, distorted guitar, that drives the song along like a combustible engine of musical energy. Keszler again perfectly complements Grubbs’ guitar playing on the song and his drumming is pushed more to the forefront of the title track with quick furies and flourishes of his fills that really exemplify his touch and go command of the drum kit.
The third and fifth songs on the album, “The Bonapartes of Baltimore” and “Jack Dracula in a Bar” respectively, leave the rock band approach to bring some somber and delicate acoustic movements to the album. It needs to be pointed out that the album is entirely instrumental, and while when Grubbs does sing on his albums vocals tend to be few and far between that other more conventional vocalists, on Creep Mission the entirely instrumental compositions brings a certain level of focus and clarity to the album throughout. “Jeremiadaic” and sounds nothing like the other songs described and is an experimental electronic piece that sounds more at home on the David Lynch soundtrack for Eraserhead or a Tyondai Braxton album than anything described as guitar-based music and it’s worth noting that Jan St. Werner of Mouse on Mars contributes to electronic glitches and fanfare on the album.
The album closes with “The C in Certain” which for any Gastr Del Sol fan it’s hard to immediately not think of the Gastr song “The C in Cake” which gave name to Chicago indie post-rock band The Sea and Cake. The closing track is also reminiscent of Gastr Del Sol not just in song name, but in mood and texture and the song creates a mellow, dreamy vibe that slowly brings this musical journey to an end in a way that maybe only other post-rock veterans Tortoise could pull off so seamlessly. Creep Mission is an adventurous album that is a real treasure for an adventurous music fan. I would also recommend Grubbs’ previous solo album, 2016’s Prismrose, to complement any appetite and inquiry remaining after this tasteful album.