“My goodness, if the rest of the album is this good, we have an absolute doozy on our hands.” That is the polite version of the thought I had after listening to the second track on the album.
Another year, another record. Scratch that, another 5. That’s what’s in stall for King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard this year. 5 albums. Another step towards becoming this eras most prolific Australian band. What’s astounding about King Gizzard is their ability as a band to remain familiar whilst producing very different records. Microtonal Flying Banana is no different, in being very different.
Microtonal Flying Banana (henceforth to be known as MFB in this article) is a bold and calculated move in musicality from King Gizzard who stick true to their beautiful OzFuzz-Psych-Kraut-Rock style on this journey of East-meets-West music. MFB shows an astounding confidence that King Gizz have in attempting to create music that doesn’t conform to western tuning standards. MFB uses an array of microtonal music which to the ear may sound dissonant but in fact when all instruments are in microtonal sync, produces very beautiful eastern tones. (This sort of tuning is common in traditional Indian Shruti scale music and Delphic Hymn music).
After the lead guitarist/Singer Stu was gifted a microtonal guitar, a guitar that could only be played with other microtonal instruments, drummer Eric explains “We ended up giving everyone a budget of $200 to buy instruments and turn them microtonal.” This gave the band fuel to embark on a new and unique project. MFB produces magical tones and songs, that aren’t necessarily radio hits, but attracts Gizz fans to the repeat setting on their chosen music players.
MFB moves seamlessly between “Kraut-y” repetition and howling Fuzzy rock. Standout tracks are hard to come by because they all leave their mark. It’s hard to tell if this is synchronicity at it’s finest or deliberate genius (I assume a combination), but the mastery behind the track listing and order needs to be mentioned. ‘Sleep Drifter’ is a harmonica humdinger that really shows the blended skills that Gizz have aimed for in this album. Having said that, the weakest track is smack bang in the middle. ‘Anoxia’ can be skipped in good conscience as it does little to the soundscape or direction of the album and could hazardously be described as a boring filler. The final track, ‘Flying Microtonal Banana,’ returns the microtonal scales to it’s natural eastern hemisphere as some sort of gesture of thanks, disappearing into the low lying clouds in the north of India, but with a tinny in your hand.
In an album that sees lead singer of the Murlocs and Gizz Harmonica/Flute/Zurna player Ambrose take over the vocals for ‘Billabong Valley’ – The Doors-eque keyboard melodies, constantly moving drums that push songs forward like the chug of a train and riffs that an Acid-Tripping-Guru inspired George Harrison would have approved of – this album is so hard to fault. Maybe it could have been longer. Seriously. It is short, but the solace is that in 12 months, I’ll have another 4 albums to add to my great Gizz soundtrack collection of 2017.