Hope and Destruction is a completely surprising CD, but not for the reasons you might think. The surprise isn't that Hope and Destruction is comprised largely of funky, metallic instrumental fusion with a strong Middle Eastern flavor, which it is. The surprise is that Maoz concentrates on super-hooky melodies and relatively simple song structures buoyed by dance floor-ready grooves.
This isn't to say that Hope and Destruction completely pushes the avant-stuff aside. Wildly inventive avant-gardeisms are especially evident during Maoz' and keyboardist Brian Marsalla's solos. But the whole idea behind this CD is clearly to get your booty shaking as Maoz and his cohorts operate in complete, unapologetic heavy-metal funk throwdown mode throughout. Hope and Destruction reimagines Bootsy Collins and Buckethead as kibbutzniks, or suggests a funked-up version of Robert Fripp's League of Gentlemen working off the after-effects of some serious Kabbalistic ritualizing.
Another thing that surprised me about this CD were the abundance of 80s pop references. Whether these are intentional or not is anyone's guess, but the first few seconds of the CD-opening "Somewhere" reminds me a bit of Rush's big hit "Tom Sawyer" before veering off into a much more malevolent direction as Maoz fires off a brilliant guitar solo. The quicker-paced "Tsi" also has a distinctly 80s-inspired retro feel and features a joyfully corrosive synth solo by Brian Marsalla. "Eagle" sounds like something that Joy Division might've done if they were hired to provide music for a film noir. "King" starts off like a Billy Idol track ("White Wedding" anyone?), but sports an effervescent, almost silly melody that would be right at home in a cheesy Japanese cartoon. Marsalla's mini-Moog solo here is particularly inspired.
Other tunes seem to have a variety of odd influences and musical tendencies. Surf and exotica flavors appear in "Shell," where Maoz' guitar solo suggests a bizarre hybrid of Link Wray and John McLaughlin circa "Devotion." The churning, machine-like, sequenced rhythms of "Two" and "Messenger" seem to derive their inspiration from the world of electronic dance music and Marsalla is all over both pieces with imaginative and unusual synthesizer sounds and riveting improvisations.
A couple of the tunes here depart from steady four-on-the-floor dance rhythms and demonstrate that Maoz and his crew are indeed a force to be reckoned with in the avant-fusion world. Imagine a horn-free, heavier and more hyperactive version of John Lurie's Lounge Lizards. The irresistibly funky "Slight Sun" features charmingly retro Vox/Farfisa keyboard sounds and a brilliant improvised exchange between Marsalla and Maoz. The ultra-crunchy "Shuki" follows with another sweet Middle-Eastern flavored melody and more gonzo keyboard and guitar solos. The CD's final track "Down" is a spacey and rather dark duet for Maoz' acoustic guitar and Marsalla's Rhodes piano.
Though Hope and Destruction was not quite what I expected, I found it a refreshing and energizing listen. Besides all of the funky drumming, stylistic genre-bending and unhinged improvisation, there are lots of tasty, unusual and memorable melodies here. The music here, danceable as it is, comes across as risky, adventurous and wildly exhilarating. Note to Tzadik management: Hope and Destruction literally begs for some sort of vinyl issue!