Albums — March 1, 2017 at 5:15 am

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’

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Entering their seventh year as a band, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have already released eight full-lengths, including last year’s exhilarating Nonagon Infinity, and two EPs. This year, they are embarking on their most ambitious project – to share five albums before December 31st arrives. And none of the albums will sound alike. The first LP one out of the gate is Flying Micronatal Banana.

To challenge themselves in making the record, each member was given $200 to buy instruments and turn them microtonal, which is essentially shorter octaves or quicker bursts of sound. While they have been armed with new tools, it’s impossible to remove the whirling, zany psychedelia out of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. They’ve just expanded their sound and channeled a few legends in the process. The result is an album that is simultaneously expected yet completely surprising. In other words, Flying Micronatal Banana is familiarly delirious yet incredibly refreshing from a band who often just blew us away with their frenetic approach.

Flying Micronatal Banana is by far King Gizzard’s most controlled and refined album. At times, the record echoes Ravi Shankar and George Harrison’s collaborative work in the ’70s, as Indian and Middle Eastern textures reverberate across several songs. For instance, “Sleep Drifter” has a smooth haziness that is intoxicating. The groovy and spellbinding “Melting” is right out of Shankar and Harrison’s performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 1974. The title track takes the Indian influences to another level, where the guitar-driven psychedelia is replaced by the sheering sounds of the shehnai. Images of bustling markets in Mumbai, Goa, and Delhi will dance in your head.

There are still unquestionable King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard moments. The opening track, “Rattlesnake”, is immensely repetitive in its lyrics, yet leave it to the Melbourne septet to turn the song into an entertaining, amusing, and fun-loving affair. “Anoxia” is a Thin Lizzy-esque number and the band at their most melodic and controlled. Their garage-rock days, meanwhile, are represented on “Doom City”, which transitions from a shimmering, stuttering vibe to a dark and eerie soundscape. It is King Gizzard at their very finest – a multi-layered composition that elicits various emotions and moods.

The highlights of the album, however, are when these two worlds collide and create an exotic, frenetic world. The pulsating “Open Water” is a delirious and engrossing number. It’s easy to get hypnotized by the whisper-like harmonies while wanting to whirl uncontrollably to the Shankar-influenced, neo-psychedelia soundscape. King Gizzard showcase their cinematic side with “Billabong Valley”. It is one part film-noir and another part Bollywood, as the song feels like a late-night encounter in a fog-filled street in Agra. The addition of the shenhai is brilliant to add to the track’s suspenseful mood.

The band’s genius, however, really shines on “Nuclear Fusion”. They brilliantly and seamlessly merge their multiple, past incarnations with this new Indian-inspired psychedelia. The transformation is extremely subtle – there are no sitars nor shenhais – but the changes are noticeable in each guitar string that is plucked, each chord struck on the organ, and the spiritual-like harmonies. Nuclear fusion indeed!

There’s no question that King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are at the top of their game, and Flying Micronatal Banana only further demonstrates their mad brilliance. Can they keep this up for four other albums? Just how far will they push the limits? Something tells us that this is just the tip of the iceberg and the best is yet to come. This is hard to imagine since album number nine is a delirious achievement.

Flying Micronatal Banana is out now via Flightless Records and ATO Records. It can also be ordered on their Bandcamp page.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are Stu Mackenzie, Joe Walker, Eric Moore, Ambrose Kenny-Smith, Lucas Skinner, Cook Craig, and Michael Cavanagh. Follow them at: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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