King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard “Flying Microtonal Banana” 2017. Flightless Records/ATO Records on “radioactive yellow” vinyl. Flying Microtonal Banana was the first of 5 (!!!) King Gizzard releases in 2017 and it hit #10 on the US Independent Album chart (#170 on the US Billboard 200 album chart). The Australian trippy psych band experiment endlessly with each of their releases and for this one they “decided to investigate microtonal tuning, a non-Western way of tuning that involves intervals smaller than a semitone. They had a custom-made guitar gifted to them, then realized they needed to create other microtonal instruments to match. With a $200 budget each, the bandmembers bought new gear and altered the instruments so they could be tuned in a way that made them compatible. The new tunings don’t radically change the band’s way of doing things; the songs are still crunchy, twisting jams that have huge hooks and exciting sections of instrumental prowess where they join together in a furious wave of sound that almost feels unstoppable. This time though, the melodies are are more exotic (to ears attuned to Western music anyway) and complex, as the leads are played by the differently tuned guitars, howling Turkish horns, and murky keyboards, giving them a psychedelic twist.” (Allmusic)
We saw King Gizzard play a sold-out show at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee this past Saturday night. We had seriously nosebleed seats, the screen that hung over the stage that showed a psychedelic light show (I think) completely obscured by the ceiling’s overhang.
They led off with the first track from Flying Microtonal Banana, “Rattlesnake” and I’m pretty embarrassed to say that was the only song I heard in its entirety, though I’m guessing they probably played at least one or more tracks, including maybe “Sleep Drifter.” I am going to blame that song for my loss of consciousness on and off for the rest of the show. (My other excuses: I get up really early for work on Saturdays, we attended two parties that afternoon and evening at which I definitely had a few cocktails and lots of snacks.) To that end, I’m going to quote copiously from Milwaukee Record’s review of the show – their writer clearly did stay awake: “The setlist grouped songs from various albums together, drawing primarily from last year’s onslaught of material (excluding mellow jazz-ish offering Sketches of Brunswick East), but they occasionally referenced older stuff as well. Gizzard songs tend to run together on albums, and there are musical and lyrical motifs that appear across multiple releases. Adding to the band’s mythological puzzle, they like to toss song fragments in between and inside live jams, which included significant portions of “Cellophane” and “Hot Water” (from 2014’s I’m In Your Mind Fuzz) and probably others on this night, much to the delight of a sizable contingency of diehards in attendance…The meat of the set featured some of the band’s more dizzying, mathematical pieces. The dynamic shifts of “The Lord Of Lightning” were exaggerated to dramatic effect, and the polyrhythmic maze of “The Fourth Colour” was even more impressive when able to watch as drummers Michael Cavanagh and Eric Moore stayed perfectly in synch. There was a surprising amount of improvisation given the unorthodox rhythms and often serpentine compositions that Gizzard favors. Even played straight, there’s something to be said for complicated songs played expertly, and while Gizzard can justifiably be tagged as prog, they get too fast and noisy to embody the usual preconceptions that term evokes. Following an exhausting trio of songs from Nonagon Infinity came the night’s biggest surprise: a stretched-out journey through “The River,” from 2015’s somewhat overlooked Quarters! album. The band cranked up the krautrock influence, turning the breezy tune into an intense, pulsing drone at times, fading almost to nothing in between sections. It brought to mind the heyday of dearly-departed local acts like Catacombz and Worrier, and that year or two when meditative psych/post-punk seemed to be gaining a foothold on the local scene. Maybe Milwaukee has been craving a resurgence in this style. You would’ve thought King Gizzard were local boys made good by the response they got.” That’s most of the article, you can read the rest here and see a couple of better photos than I could get as well, like this fantastic shot of the crowd at the end of the show (there was no encore).