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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Flying Microtonal Banana CD (album) cover

FLYING MICROTONAL BANANA

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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5 stars To celebrate King Gizzard being added to the archives, i'm going to review my favorite Gizz album. On this one, the boys experiment with micro-tonal instruments creating one of their more progressive albums that's able to keep a very uniform dark sound throughout. Much of this lies in the very tasteful production that sets this album apart notably in the drum and guitar department.

Rattlesnake starts things off with a sort of King Gizz signature with its repetitive lyrics similar to what has been used on past songs such as "Trapdoor." Lets make it clear, I don't use the word "Repetitive" with negative connotation because it works. I wasn't a huge fan initially but there's a lot of really interesting details scattered throughout that made it a grower for me. The album only picks up momentum from here and doesn't slow down. "Melting" stars to show what this album is all about showcasing the microtonal guitar sounds this album is filled with. I love how it has a gloomy mood while still having a very driving rhythm section.

"Open Water" is a contender for my favorite track on the album. It has these chugging drums throughout and a tinge of middle eastern vibes in the guitar that I always appreciate (obligatory Rajaz shoutout). Sleep Drifter continues the mood with dark whispery vocals. This song does an interesting thing towards the middle where all the instruments besides the guitar quiet down and slowly build back up for a very cool interlude. For "Billabong Valley," Ambrose (the keyboard/harmonica player) takes lead vocals. Its another very forward moving song for about the first half until it slows down to a really cool slower doomy jam section that does some really interesting effects with the Harmonica. Despite being on the shorter side of songs, "Anoxia" is another highlight for me. Right out the gates it comes out with a badass guitar-led intro that comes back in even heavier for the chorus.

Continuing the Doomy vibes is "Doom City" which switches between a somewhat less sludgy stoner metal style riff, and the driving rhythms seen throughout the album. They have a big playout near the end with the main riff. Within this, there's a nasty distorted harmonica solo that I cant help but love for its unconventional use of the instrument. Nuclear Fusion is arguably the most progressive track and it boasts a real hang banging groove during the verse. Closing the album is the short title track with its very tribal sound that is hinted at throughout the album.

5 Stars without a shadow of a doubt. There's so many memorable melodies in every song that this has just become a go-to album for me. This is unique, accessible modern prog at its finest. And believe me, it doesn't forget to rock.

Report this review (#2303110)
Posted Wednesday, January 1, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars 1. Rattlesnake - Psychedelic garage rock with a classic Krautrock drum beat. Sets a strong pace for a really good album. Could be seen as a bit repetitive but lots of subtle changes to keep you interested

2. Melting - almost a sort of Bossa Nova style, and the microtonal elements really come to the fore. Somehow it manages to be both fast paced and flat and still sound good.

3. Open Water - really showcasing the drums which keep up the fast pace set by the last two tracks, this time with guitar evoking images of a snake charmer in a bazaar... really ominous mood to this track despite the pace, I really like it!

4. Sleep Drifter - returns to the Krautrock beat and garage style, and another interesting track for the microtonal elements. Vocal style in this track is a little different and the closest thing I can compare it to (brace yourselves prog fans) is Fools Gold by The Stone Roses, in its slightly whispery dis-interested melancholy sound.

5. Billabong Valley - Ambrose Kenny-Smith takes over on vocals for this track, and his style makes this probably the most psychedelic sounding track on the album. This is so Stu can make use of the Zurna, a piercing oboe-like instrument used a lot in central Asia and southeast Europe, and you find yourself transported back to the bazaar as the album slows down a bit

6. Anoxia - Heavy guitar riffs from the start which never let up as the slower section of the album continues.

7. Doom City - Krautrock beat is back but broken up by a far more melancholy sludgy section (hence the track title) and some cleverly distorted harmonica

8. Nuclear Fusion - Starts of with a very catchy bass line. Quite reminiscent of very early Porcupine Tree I think, but with a Zurna.

9. Flying Microtonal Banana - closes with a further showcase of the Zurna which wouldn't be out of place with a troop of belly dancers.

On the whole a very interesting album, and proves that new things can still be done in the wide world of prog and psychedelic. 5 stars from me

Report this review (#2442040)
Posted Friday, August 28, 2020 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The prolific Aussie jam band is experimenting with Middle Eastern microtonalism.

1. "Rattlesnake" (7:48) run-of-the-mill, straightforward lyrics-driven rock. (12/15)

2. "Melting" (5:27) hypnotic SANTANA-like music. A top three song. (8.75/10)

3. "Open Water" (7:13) interesting and engaging in a MOTORPSYCHO-kind of way. The insidious repetition runs the chance of boring me musically until the guitars cut out at the 4:15 mark and then a very interesting ADRIAN BELEW/TALKING HEADS section begins. Cool! My second top three song. (13.25/15)

4. "Sleep Drifter" (4:44) good modern psychedelic rock with some classic "Southern" rock chord structures and soundscapes. I like the pause and slow restart at 2:40?it really sets apart the microtonal inputs that everyone talks about. There's a little CAN-like Krautrock feel to this, as well. (8.5/10)

5. "Billabong Valley" (3:34) same CAN-like beat and pace from the previous song with the unusual singing voice of a female(?) The song slows down in the second half and then the presence of the zurna makes it interesting. (8.5/10)

6. "Anoxia" (3:04) Here the zurna feels like it's coming from its own separate universe while the pretty standard rock music supports the guitar-and-choral vocal approach the band used to use a lot back in 2014. (8.5/10)

7. "Doom City" (3:14) odd slow blues riff opens before it switches to New Wave-like rhythmic styling. Zurna and choir take the band down the slow blues riff for the choruses. Very strange! Stu's untreated voice, sung in the mid-range, sounds so unusual. (8.25/10)

8. "Nuclear Fusion" (4:15) Very interesting, curious, yet catchy soundscape and weave. A top three song for me. (8.75/10)

9. "Flying Microtonal Banana" (2:34) an instrumental with congos, djembe, and marimba with guitars and multiple tracks of zurna. Eventually they create a kind of chorus out of the chorus riff from Jesus Christ Superstar song "The Temple." Whereas the rest could come from PETER GABRIEL's Passion Sources. I have to say, when these guys choose to do instrumentals, they do them well. My favorite song on the album. (4.75/5)

Total Time 41:53

B/four stars; a nice excursion into KG&TLW's excursion into Middle Eastern-influenced psychedelia. Recommended for your own exploration--especially if you're into following this band's evolution.

Report this review (#2447817)
Posted Monday, September 14, 2020 | Review Permalink
3 stars If, like me, the concept of this album makes you curious about how microtonality would work in a rock context - especially if you've heard, for example, the work of Alois Haba, whose piano sonata explores microtonality so thoroughly as to be utterly disorienting - well, these guys don't go anywhere near as far out as Alois Haba.

The music is mostly harmonically static - often sitting on the same pedal note for lengthy periods, particularly in "Rattlesnake" - over which they explore what mostly sound like fairly standard modal scales with the occasional microtonal inflection - enough microtonality to sound 'out of tune' to ears used to equal temperament, but not enough for you to forget what key they're in.

From other reviewers I learn that they were particularly influenced by Middle Eastern music. That explains the lesser importance given to harmony and harmonic motion in this music, although to my ears it lacks the elaborate melodicism that such music usually has when liberated from harmonic constraints - perhaps partly because it's not similarly liberated rhythmically, with an insistent Krautrock-style rhythm anchoring most of the music. The Middle Eastern Influence is most noticeable in the instrumental title track, and in those tracks that use the zurna. Most of the time the vibe I get is somewhere between Can and Hawkwind.

An interesting album. 3.5 stars if I could give half stars here.

Report this review (#2591881)
Posted Friday, September 3, 2021 | Review Permalink

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