Australian psychedelic experimentalists King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard follow-up their lauded 2016 record ‘Nonagon Infinity’, with an album that is equally experimental and ballsy. The first of five apparent albums to release this year, ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’ is equally as bonkers in musicality as its title suggests. Yet its dynamic, ever-changing psychedelic rock certainly refreshes the industry palette.
Exploring the technique of microtonality, frontman Stu Mackenzie acquired a custom guitar that allows microtonal tuning, enabling the user to reach smaller intervals of tone. Of course, this meant other band members’ instruments had to be modified to possess the exact same capabilities, albeit a small costly affair to continue their ethos of experimentalism.
It quickly becomes apparent that this is a wholly different brew to last years’ explosive and unrelenting ‘Nonagon Infinity’. Its more tempered, controlled attitude to songwriting delivers a refreshing representation of the age-old psych-rock genre, aided by a welcome addition of other significant influences.
The melody of ‘Rattlesnake’ is bustling; intermittent interludes of retro-synth, staccato guitar and a zurna (a Middle Eastern wind instrument) keeps the track dynamic through its seven-minute tenure.
Psychedelic mysticism oozes throughout ‘Melting’, with its vocal tracks harmoniously matching the noodly guitar lines, followed by an expansive yet sombre keyboard interlude.
‘Open Water’ punches through with math-rock style drum beats akin to something 65daysofstatic would conjure up, coupled with the general feel of unease through sharp, peculiar instrumental choices.
The mid-section of ‘Billabong Valley’ breaks down like a stoner jam, although instead of fuzz-laden guitars, Mackenzie multi-tracks his zurna to create an epic homage to the band’s Eastern influences and imitative tendencies. ‘Doom City’ features wah-pedal Sabbath-esque grooves that quickly dissipate into high-tempo verse sections.
The album closes with the title track, a two-minute instrumental featuring prominent zurna (it’s similarities with Scottish bagpipes becomes quite ironic at times). ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’ is a refreshing addition to Gizzard’s expansive back catalogue, and with four more studio albums confirmed to be on the near-horizon, it will be interesting to see the different approaches the band takes to each subsequent release.
Essential tracks: Rattlesnake // Open Water // Billabong Valley