Eclectic Aussie rock outfit King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard continues its lifelong mission to find strange new fronts in psychedelic rock with ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’. With an energy that’s comparable to Sheffield-based punk rockers Brain Circus, and the same multicultural flavour of psych rock dreamweaver Lucy, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are showing the kids a glimpse of psychedelia’s future.
As the album name implies, ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’ is an exploration of microtonal tuning. This means that their guitars and drums are tuned and modified to play quarter notes, half notes, and all the other nooks and crannies in between regular traditionally-tuned tones. The entire album is a treasure trove of every possible element encapsulated by the word ‘rock,’ with a heroic dose of psychedelia. The song ‘Melting’ for instance is a smooth, Latin-flavoured taste of the microtonal landscape, injected with spicy keys and world music-inspired drumming. In the song ‘Billabong Valley’, we hear the adventures of an Aussie folk hero to the tune of West Asian-inspired guitar and keys and grunge-driven drums.
In order to guide us on this experimental journey into music’s under-explored pitches, the band is armed with unique microtonal and other studio equipment. ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’ is the literal name of Stu Mackenzie’s custom-made banana-yellow microtonal electric guitar, which first produced the strange music around which the album’s concept rotates.
The band’s two drum kits are also modified for this purpose. Apart from being tuned for microtones, they needed extra sensitive mics to accurately capture the intent behind the modifications. Affectionately referred to by Mackenzie as a ‘slippery fish’ because of its shape, the Sennheiser MD421 mic is a large-diaphragm full-bodied cardioid microphone that did a perfect job of recording some of the crispest snare drumming in grunge and punk-driven psych rock. Several hi-fi AKG mics also surrounded the drum kits during recording. In short, don’t be fooled by the neo-punk sound and attitude.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are gear-hogging musicians who know how to put their studio equipment to good use, and Flying Microtonal Banana is a 26-minute long N-dimethyltryptamine journey that could provide the soundtrack to the dreams and nightmares of Frank Zappa’s ghost.
Words by Alline Allard