Melbourne psychedelic-rockers King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have returned with their ninth album in five years, the much anticipated Flying Microtonal Banana. The title of the record may seem strange, but it is highly appropriate when considering the concept of the album. Flying Microtonal Banana is centred around experimenting with a custom-made microtonal guitar, which was gifted to frontman Stu Mackenzie by a friend. The guitar was modified to play in 24-TET tuning, only to be played with other microtonal instruments. Other than the guitar, the record features microtonal basses, keyboards, harmonicas and a Turkish zurna.
Flying Microtonal Banana is largely contrasting in comparison to King Gizzard’s previous effort, the heavier and ever-relentless Nonagon Infinity. Although the group’s sound is not as phased-out as it has been on previous albums like 2014’s Oddments, Flying Microtonal Banana is a near return to the band’s roots in low-fi garage psych-rock. King Gizzard also regain the meandering jamming that existed in albums such as Quarters!; found in the opening three songs ‘Rattlesnake’, ‘Melting’ and ‘Open Water’. The distinct difference on Flying Microtonal Banana is that there is the presence of Middle Eastern/South Asian inspired sound, yet somehow still in a recognisably King Gizzard way.
On first hearing, Flying Microtonal Banana genuinely sounds like a combination of King Gizzard’s substantial discography rolled into one complete album, albeit with a testing soundscape to Western-tuned listeners. However, after a more intense look into the album, listeners may warm to the slightly quirky variation in sound on Flying Microtonal Banana compared to anything King Gizzard have presented before. The change in dynamic becomes particularly vast when considering King Gizzard’s second album Eyes Like The Sky – a spaghetti-Western audiobook narrated by Broderick Smith (father of band member Ambrose Kenny-Smith). But, on Flying Microtonal Banana, King Gizzard explore sounds largely unheard to a large percentage of Western music listeners, tapping into the wicked tones of the Eastern world. The sound may be best described as East-meets-West music, and on this East-meets-West soundtrack, King Gizzard bring the issues of both worlds to light.
Generally on a King Gizzard record, listeners can expect the lyrics to correlate with the overarching concept of the album. This is exemplified by 2014’s I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, when mind-control was the theme of the album and the lyrics corresponded. The predominant subject of Flying Microtonal Banana exists within tracks like Melting, Nuclear Fusion and Doom City, where these songs shed light on the environmental problems harming the Earth. Although, it seems on Flying Microtonal Banana that the Melbourne seven-piece had free rein with their songwriting, as there are multiple lyrical themes within the album. Moreover, the album features various songwriters and vocalists, with Kenny-Smith assuming the lead on Billabong Valley and Joey Walker on Anoxia. On King Gizzard’s previous record Nonagon Infinity, all tracks were written and sung by Mackenzie, and the impact of the one writer was significant; all songs were perfectly coherent to one another. In comparison to Nonagon Infinity, the songwriting and consequently the songs on Flying Microtonal Banana are not as connected lyrically, yet still remain rhythmically attached. It is the progressive style that King Gizzard so often display that keeps Flying Microtonal Banana together when the lyrical connectedness frays slightly.
In a year that King Gizzard have proposed to release an unbelievable five albums, they have set the bar dangerously high on their first effort with Flying Microtonal Banana. The contrast of their East-meets-West sound compared to previous records may create an overwhelming change for fanatic listeners of King Gizzard, but those diehard fans (the weirdo swarm as they are called) will most likely be fulfilled with Flying Microtonal Banana. It will be extremely challenging for King Gizzard to follow this record strongly, especially if they are to release another four albums before 2017 concludes, but if anyone, it is King Gizzard that can achieve the almighty feat.
Favourite track: Billabong Valley.
Flying Microtonal Banana is out via Flightless Records on February 24. Order/download the album on King Gizzard’s Bandcamp.
Watch the video for ‘Rattlesnake’ below:
- Open Water
- Sleep Drifter
- Billabong Valley
- Doom City
- Nuclear Fusion
- Flying Microtonal Banana