“Supergroup” shouldn’t apply to an act with just two members, but when half a duo is the son of John and Yoko, it’s difficult not to reach for the term. Thankfully, Mystical Weapons – the experimental collaboration of Sean Lennon and Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier – -strikes as far from its celebrity specter as it can. The project’s self-titled debut ignores the institution of Lennon as offspring, showcasing instead Lennon as musician and partner to Saunier’s off-road expeditions.
Born of the sudden need to fill an opening slot for Lennon’s folk band Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, the live branch of Mystical Weapons fills the air with combusting dialogue. In studio, the project manifests as a series of mostly brief investigations that swing between Piper at the Gates of Dawn-era psychedelia and free jazz in the vein of Shining. Only five of 13 whimsically-titled tracks break the three-minute mark, but the formal divisions matter less in the wake of the record’s easy flow. Alternately jittery and meditative, Mystical Weapons gives its most engaging moments plenty of space to breathe. Agitated excursions like “Whispers the Blue Tongue” and “Colony Collapse Disorder” are padded on both sides by mellow piano jams and soft patchworks of organ and guitar. The record swells and recedes, inducing, then breaking hypnosis.
The drums command the most attention; Lennon’s instrumentals hang like loose skin over Saunier’s intricate skeletons. At times, like on “Distant City”, it seems as though Saunier is itching to snap into Deerhoof’s tight whimsy, while a few of Lennon’s solos breach too far into the realm of rock showmanship. But on the whole, Mystical Weapons functions as fluid conversation between musicians who have left everything but the desire to explore by the door.
Essential Tracks: “Gross Domestic Happiness”, “Colony Collapse Disorder”