King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard are not a band prone to just releasing an album because they need an album out. There’s got to be some overarching purpose to it for these Aussie psych-punks. Each of the past couple of records they’ve done is sort of wrapped up in some experiment that can be heard across the entire run of the piece. From the folky sounds of Paper Mache Dream Balloon to the never ending loop of last year’s excellent Nonagon Inifinity, the band at the very least always brings something interesting to the table. So what is their central idea on their latest opus, maddeningly titled Flying Microtonal Banana?
As you could probably got from the title, the band is doing a lot with microtonal instruments on this, basically hitting pitches between the notes of the standard octave. It’s an idea not utilized that often in Western music, although it can be heard in smidgens in the subtle bends and pitch slides in the blues. It’s far more common in Asian and Eastern European classical music forms, where the music isn’t necessarily based around diatonic scales as it is most commonly in Western music.
But I’m guessing that you’re not here for a musical anthropology lecture. You wanna know about this album. And that question is a bit more complicated than I thought hearing Flying Microtonal Banana for the first time. King Gizzard got a good bit of critical acclaim with Nonagon Infinity, an absolutely blistering album that went hard for the entire length of the record. One would think that the pressure would be on the band to replicate the success of that album, but the band instead chooses to take a completely different approach.
This album is pretty mellow compared to its bruiser of a predecessor, choosing to go for a droney, quiet, and frankly hypnotic sound. They’re more willing to let the songs jam out for extended stretches, and there are several songs over the five minute mark, including the opening Krautrock-ish opening cut “Rattlesnake”. The production has also take a step up, everything being a bit less muddy than some of their past recordsm, while still letting through some of that blurry distortion. One thing that I have to say is that, despite the novelty of the album’s microtonality concept, it often doesn’t really go anywhere, serving to make some notes just sort of sound out of tune. Some tracks use it pretty effectively, like the keyboard jam section of the second track, “Melting”. Another highlight is the trippy as-hell title track, which comes off as less of a song and more of an acid-soaked new age raga instrumental. It’s like the type of thing a snake charmer would play on the streets of a bazaar.
While this album didn’t blow me away quite like their previous release, this is a really good psychedelic rock album when you get right down to it, and its hypnotic nature makes it really stick in your head in subtle ways.