Yep… After just two months since the release of the dystopian spoken narrative Murder of the Universe, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are back. The Mild High Club collaboration, Sketches of Brunswick East, is the Melbourne septet’s third record of a proposed five for 2017. The psychedelic-jazz vibe of Sketches is anything but a subtle change of pace for King Gizz following the aforementioned Murder of the Universe and the February’s Flying Microtonal Banana desert-rock journey. King Gizzard front-man describes the contrast between albums well: “If Murder of the Universe was our most conceptual and arranged album – then Sketches… is the exact opposite.” So, have King Gizzard finally reached breaking point with their third album of the year, or is this merely a rest from the overly conceptual records the band are renowned for?
Sketches is aptly titled for multiple reasons. Firstly, King Gizzard and Mild High Club took inspiration from jazz legend Miles Davis’s 1960 album Sketches of Spain. Additionally, the contents of Sketches are just that – semi-improvised sketches. Multiple songs hardly break from a spur-of-the-moment jam, particularly ‘D-Day’ and ‘Cranes, Plains and Migraines’, as each run for just over a minute before bleeding into the next song. There’s also the titular three-part song spread throughout the album, providing a specific introduction, mid-point and conclusion. These short, largely-instrumental moments allow the album to flow as one, but it’s hard not to imagine what Sketches could have been if the songs were transformed into fully-fledged singles.
The instrumental interludes are both the best and worst thing about Sketches. It’s clear that the album is meant to be rough – that’s already in the title. But the frustrating element in relation to the interludes is that they show potential for an amazing record, of which King Gizzard and Mild High Club were fundamentally unable to create. The potential is exemplified in the album opener, ‘Sketches of Brunswick East I’, offering pleasant guitar chords before the flute steals the show as it regularly does throughout Sketches. If ‘Sketches I’ was expanded on, it would make it a far more memorable moment of the record, and that goes for all the interludes.
While the interludes are frustrating, they also contribute heavily to Sketches’ most positive element. Without the short instrumental sketches, the album wouldn’t float along as smoothly as it does, with each song segueing into the following. The interludes create a free-flowing mood, one that Sketches was definitely designed to produce. That mood is accurately described as a “laze in the afternoon sun” in ‘The Spider And Me’. Without the little in-between sketches, the album may not make as much sense, after all, a jazz-inspired album should be intended to flow cohesively rather than jarringly. And King Gizzard and Mild High Club achieve that to a tee.
King Gizzard fans have no need to worry if they’re disappointed in Sketches. Although the band may still have two albums remaining in 2017, there’s no doubt the next two will be hugely different in comparison to Sketches, just as basically every album in King Gizzard’s vast discography. Sketches was always going to be an interesting directional change following the previous two releases, and the change is of a refreshing nature. Sketches is no breaking point for King Gizzard, just a fun detour through a strange suburb before getting back on track.