Written by Andrew Howie
In a music world as oversaturated as our current scene, it can be difficult to establish a musical group as something worthy of extra attention that rises above the fray. One such group that I’ve been listening to recently is Australia’s eclectic and dynamic King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. Combining the heavy psychedelia of the ‘70s with garage punk and a proclivity for wild experimentation, this seven-piece will leave you floored with their monumental presence and sky-high talent.
As one of the more prolific groups in non-mainstream music (they’ve released nine albums since 2012, and have already released the first of five planned albums this year), it can be hard to keep up with their prodigious output. Their latest release, the enthralling Flying Microtonal Banana, gets their 2017 series off to a rollicking start. As the first of a series of albums with different experimental themes and objectives, their first of the year is an experiment in microtones, or intervals smaller than a half-step between notes (they are most definitely a musician’s band).
Microtones aren’t usually found in Western music, and they lend themselves to otherworldly sounds and intervals that generally aren’t found in most popular music. On the opener of Flying Microtonal Banana, “Rattlesnake”, the band opens with a solid groove, gradually layering more and more elements in a sonic dance that threatens to spiral out of control.
As has been the case with some of their previous albums, the songs all slink together, and “Rattlesnake” leads right into “Melting”, which indeed sounds like melting walls dripping with neon paint. The notes do indeed sound just a little bit off, and very exotic. There’s a very mysterious feel to the record, almost a murky and back-alley feel.
One of the aspects I really enjoy about King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard albums is the way they build ambient pillars of sound and bring it all crashing back to Earth by the end of the record. Flying Microtonal Banana is no exception, with cryptic lyrics about toxic air and open water that build up the tension with the music towards an epic release of furious, screeching psychedelia that is equal parts Led Zeppelin, The Mars Volta, and Miles Davis.
The vaguely Asian elements of many of the solos and ominous drones complement each other and form a swirling, raging, surging explosion of an album. In keeping with their style, the record is essentially one giant song broken up into nine different movements. It’s one of my favorite styles of recording, as I prefer to listen to an entire album in one sitting.
As one of the most exciting new bands in the music world today, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, and Flying Microtonal Banana in particular, are a mishmash of shapeshifting melodies, spellbinding ambience, thrashing garage rock, and breakneck psychedelic crunch. If you have never heard their music before, this is as good a place to start as any, and you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor. Happy listening!