Review Summary: In their debut collaboration, Sean Lennon and Greg Saunier fuse noise rock, psychedelia, and avant-garde elements into an album that aspires to be abstract rather than immediately appealing- Yoko Ono would be proud.Mystical Weapons
focuses on primarily one agenda throughout its entirety, and that is to merely expand the boundaries of imagination. Think of this album as an elongated jam session, in which both musicians simply improvise with whatever ideas came to mind, and then try to sculpt them into something that stimulates the mind. Of course, within this open-minded environment, it's rather inevitable to expect that all concepts of logic and harmonic appeal will often be ignored over innovative aspirations. It's certainly an ambitious route to embark on, especially as an aspiring musician in today's world, but this proves to be a rather grey area for Sean Lennon and Greg Saunier because their willingness to experiment proves to be both a strength as well as their most evident flaw. Mystical Weapons embodies a spectrum of musical concepts and artistic aspirations that at times seem to be unionized in a fashion that makes them appear underwhelming rather than magnetizing.
A lot of the album's musical direction tends to dwell within genres that focus on technical musicianship and elaborate ambiences. Greg Saunier's influence is more than noticeable throughout Mystical Weapons
, and is obviously the visionary behind the music as a lot of the compositions aspire to reflect the noise and psychedelic idiosyncrasies of his primary group, Deerhoof. The album's main highlight, "Whisper The Black Tongue", showcases some very unique and complex instrumental maneuvering that exudes a rather peculiar sense of allure. Both Sean Lennon and Greg Saunier seem to be operating under an atypical rhythmic framework here, allowing the music to express itself in a less restrictive environment. The unity of Greg Saunier's aggressive drumming, and particularly Sean Lennon's guitar playing, is what really gives the song its momentum. Sean Lennon's solos are embellished with a very eccentric yet euphonic dynamism. He tends to follow his own patterns while altering at his own pace, from quick outbursts of impulsive soloing to more discreet flaunts. But whatever it is that he's doing, his notes always deliver a vigorous melodic groove throughout the piece that is exquisitely potent. "Whisper The Black Tongue" is a very meticulously composed song, and one that expels a barrage of erratic psychedelia that constantly alters our perception as if we were voyaging through some surrealistic funhouse. The two musicians have really developed quite an impressive synergy here, as they compliment each other's vibes with ease and a conspicuous adroitness. Though unfortunately, that kind of creative interaction isn't seen throughout most of the album.
There are a few other songs like "Colony Collapse Disorder", and its accompanying medley "Distant City", where the duo comprise yet another emphatic jam, displaying radical harmonic progressions and ambient hazes, but moments like these are a rare bloom within an otherwise desolate meadow. This album is plagued with fillers that exercise such a minimalistic arrangement. "Dirty" and "Silk Screen Eyes" are two of the most unnecessary pieces in Mystical Weapons
because they don't augment the album in any meaningful way. "Dirty" is a typical piano ballad, but it is also very melancholic because the notes that are played are not accompanied by another instrument for most of its duration, illustrating a rather isolated scene. The notes played are indolently conceived though, they're just excruciatingly minimal and follow no actual melody or relevant purpose. "Silk Screen Eyes" is just as artistically deprived as "Dirty", as it is simply a recording of clashing idiophones that repeats itself with varying patterns along the way. It's difficult to even surmise what theme these songs are suppose to convey, and how they fit in with the rest of the noise rock tracks. It's as if the group is just trying to seem obscure and minimalistic for the sake of appearing artistic, perhaps maybe even Sean Lennon's way of channeling his mother's intuition for the avant-garde, but in the end, these songs just come out as extraneous as can be.
Overall, Mystical Weapons
is a passable effort, but a disappointing one at that. When it comes to experimental music, one should bear in mind that the entertainment value in these albums will always be equivocal. It all depends on how engaging the artist can make their music, and there are moments in the album where the group reach a mesmerizing level of ingenuity. But we more than often have to navigate through various fillers that embody the album to get to those gems. And though their durations are modest and don't take much time, they do make up the majority of the songs. Then again, even some of the central pieces, like the epic "Gross Domestic Happiness", exhibit very little coherence within their compositions as well. After a prolonged build-up of tension and anticipation, the music erupts into a spontaneous display of dissonant instrumentation. And though it's indeed loud and chaotic, there is no concept behind it. There is no melodic framework that takes its course, it's just anarchical noise for the sake of anarchical noise. It's nothing eminent or even memorable, it's just mindless pretentiousness that goes absolutely nowhere. Even if one was to argue that the point of this song is to break down the conventions of music by emphasizing in improvised musicianship, the notes that are played are not even captivating enough to really hold the attention of the listener. Mystical Weapons might be an interesting group due to their intriguing musical textures and exercises, but they offer nothing that other noise bands haven't already introduced or mastered before them. As I've said before, there is an attractive vitality in some songs, but as a whole, this album would be a waste of time to sit through from beginning to end.