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The first of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s alleged 5 album releases coming this year kicks the newest set of material, since last year’s fantastic and mind-boggling Nonagon Infinity, off to a great start. The band hold on to their psyched-out garage-rock stylings with lo-fi, analogue sounding production and their 60s/70s psychedelic rock influences firmly worn on their sleeves without compromising their refreshing approach to music. Though nowhere near as chilled out as Paper Mache Dream Balloon, this release is certainly a breather from the garage rock whirlwind of Nonagon Infinity. Any fans hoping for the same high-octane rock n’ roll drag race should open their minds to the change of pace that this album has to offer.

‘Microtonal’ is an accurate descriptor. The band’s guitars were reportedly modded out to allow microtonal notes to be played, meaning the album is rife with eerie, off-kilter guitar riffs. This kind of mode is typical of Middle Eastern and Asian music but not so much in western music given the constrictions of the western classical tradition to which pop and rock have often so safely adhered to. ‘Sleep Drifter’ provides an excellent example of King Gizzard’s newfound microtonal prowess, opening with an ominous guitar riff that acts as a very revealing example of the power that microtonality is afforded on this album.

This album is a smorgasbord of instrumental intrigue

Repetition is a key theme in the album. The opening 7-minute epic ‘Rattlesnake’ sounds like the lovechild of Neu! and King Crimson. Relentless, fast-paced repetitive guitar riffs back numerous guitar, flute and bagpipe solos that unleash microtonal hell. The song is reminiscent of the material on Nonagon Infinity but with noticeably toned-down production and instrumentation. Upon first listen to this song in isolation, I was unimpressed. I found the obsessive repetition and meandering style to feel incoherent and out of focus, especially when compared with the thrilling, skittish song writing of their last album. However, the song has since grown on me and I find it to be much more satisfying in the context of the rest of the album. ‘Rattlesnake’ also introduces the myriad of wildly diverse instrumentation that is present in the subsequent cuts. Bagpipes, brittle guitars, strange tunings, flute, keyboard – this album is a smorgasbord of instrumental intrigue.

‘Rattlesnake’ provides a smooth transition into the next song,
‘Melting’ with a subtle fade out into a strange, syncopated drum pattern. The rhythm has a strong Latin influence which is qualified by quirky electric piano chords. The band’s use of two drummers proves to subvert its gimmicky potential as it provides a disorienting, richly-layered rhythmic presence in the song. The spacious production allows one drum kit to occupy each side of the stereo field, enriching the percussion in a very unique way. ‘Billabong Valley’ is another interesting track. Strange pitched-up vocals front the song’s spooky, snaking instrumentation. Despite first half of the track being fast-paced and driving with rapid piano chords, the track slows to a cooled down wander, evoking the feeling of actually walking through a dusty desert valley. The problem with ‘Billabong Valley’ and a few of the other tracks in the album is that they don’t progress in the most interesting way. This particular track ends with a simple fade out as the subsequent song, ‘Anoxia’ is introduced in a way that comes across as clunky. Some of the songs on the album do feel a little half-baked in comparison to others. While the jam-style song writing is, for the most part, effective, at times the band tries to blur the lines between a more improvisational style and fully structured songs, leaving us with cuts that sound underwritten.

the track evokes the feeling of actually walking through a dusty desert valley

Where Flying Microtonal Banana best succeeds is in its energy, its production and its weirdness. The band continue their streak of intensely strange music on from Nonagon Infinity, resulting in a final product that feels like a suitable progression from their previous release despite its more toned-down feel. The album’s microtonal concept is also a reassurance that King Gizzard will continue to push the envelope with every single release, limiting themselves creatively to assure a fully realised and adventurous release. Despite the occasional piece of lacklustre song writing, this album is a success. It goes without saying that this album is simultaneously microtonal and absolutely bananas.

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