Judging from song titles like “Does this rag smell like chloroform?”, “Panty Dropper”, and “You don’t hire Evel Kneivel to ride a tricycle”, one would expect The Mag Seven’s “Cotton Needle Sessions” to be full of hard punk rock or gritty grunge rock. Surprisingly, the album is all ambient instrumental work.
Each of the songs has its own feel, ranging from a noir detective mystery feel to spaghetti western, riding into the sunset type music. It’s very jazzy with the guitar having a bit of surf-like twang to it. “Does this rag smell like chloroform?” is a good example of this. The guitar is played much like surf guitar would be played, but alternates, with the percussion, into sounding almost as if saxophone is playing due to the smooth rising and falling intensity.
Bill Stevenson is amazing on the drums. It’s been so long since I’ve heard percussion adding and moving the music, not just providing a backbeat or keeping time. On “A1A” his fills, dispersed throughout the track, come as a pleasant surprise and keeps the song from becoming repetitive, as some ambient music tends to do. He also adds to the main riff at the end, pounding the drums – it both emphasizes and elevates it to sounding different. Check out “Rise of the Levis” as well; there is minimal guitar work, and the drum work really carries the song.
The album as a whole has music to make you feel like a smooth badass – music you would expect to hear the guys from Reservoir Dogs have as a theme song. You can sense the jazz inspiration because each song can bring out different emotions in you, the listener. There are no words, but in your head you can make or remember experiences that you’ve had that they go along with. It’s all very smooth, easy to get lost in and a damn sure better listen than a punk/grunge album would have been.