Album Review - Mystical Weapons
by Jamie Wolfert
Mystical Weapons is an improvisation based collaboration between Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier and guitarist/keyboardist/Son-of-a-Beatle Sean Lennon. Born spontaneously out of a need for an opening act for one of Lennon's other bands, Mystical Weapons has taken on a life of its own, resulting in an album of surprising range and accessibility.
For many listeners the description “improvisation based” is enough to send them running the other direction, fleeing from imagined horrors of 17-minute “songs” and hippies playing fake jazz. Mystical Weapons turns this prejudice on its head with 13 relatively structured and mostly wank-free songs, many at 3 minutes or less, featuring a wide range of moods, dynamics, and instrumentation. Lennon interleaves layers of haunting, heavy guitar and various keyboard instruments, with Saunier's funky, explosive drumming alternately holding down the fort and firing off volleys of rifle shot snare and bass drum depth charges. If you're familiar with Saunier's playing in Deerhoof, his unpredictable, edge-of-chaos displays of virtuosity will come as no surprise. There are moments on Mystical Weapons, like the opening cut “Impossible Shapes”, that recall the heavyweight psych prog of early Pink Floyd and King Crimson, while “Whispers The Blue Tongue” bears the unmistakeable influence of Dark Magus-era Miles Davis. For the most part Saunier and Lennon strike an ideal balance between rocking out and spacious, hard-grooving restraint, with Lennon's generic bluesy solo bit in “Colony Collapse Disorder” being the only moment that seemed wanky and out of place.
Given the structure and sonic layering of Mystical Weapons it's hard to say how much of it was truly improvised and how much is the result of overdubs and selective editing after the fact, but the result is an unexpectedly satisfying and accessible instrumental improv record.