King Gizzard Adds a New York Show, Goes Off on a Wild Middle Eastern Tangent

by delarue

If you live for psychedelic rock and you’re depressed that the King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard show tonight at Webster Hall is sold out, don’t fret. A second show has been added for tomorrow night, April 1, no April Fool. $22 advance tix are ostensibly available, but good luck at the Webster Hall box office on a Friday night. To make up for the hit to the wallet, fellow antipodeans Stonefield – the coolest all-female heavy psych band on the planet – open the evening at 7:30 PM.

If you’re brave enough for the venue, you will be rewarded because the Gizzards’ (Lizards’? Wizards’?)  latest album, Flying Microtonal Banana, streaming at Bandcamp, is their best one yet. It’s infinitely more focused than the long, drony, hypnotic late-period Brian Jonestown Massacre-style jams the band had been releasing in droves over the past couple of years. And it’s very Middle Eastern influenced: Zola Jesus is the obvious comparison.

Guitarist Stu Mackenzie claims that playing the Turkish baglama lute springboarded the whole thing. The first cut, Anoxia, sways along on an enigmatically descending, bitingly catchy Middle Eastern riff anchored by what sounds like a sitar-guitar patch. Billabong Valley is a twisted mashup of scampering third-wave glamrock and Mediterranean psychedelia, with a generous nod back to Neil Young, along with microtonal guitar that evokes a Turkish zurna oboe.

Doom City is a characteristically surreal blend of sludgy post-Sabbath low-register riffage and wryly tiptoeing psychedelia, with more of that otherworldly, keening microtonal guitar. Likewise, the overtone-laden bagpipe sonics on the album’s trickily dancing title track. From there the band segues into the organ-fueled Melting, which sounds like the Doors jamming out a jaunty Nino Rota Fellini film theme. As the song goes on, the keyboards shift into uneasy microtones, a potent recurring device throughout the album.

Nuclear Fusion sounds like a Turkish take on pulsing BJM strobe-rock, amped up with tumbling drums, judicious tongues of fire from the bass and electrified lutes. It makes a good segue with the album’s first fullscale epic, Open Water. A hash-smuggling speedboat theme of sorts, it’s got an energetic, hypnotically shuffling, qawwali-ish groove, icepick staccato guitar and all sorts of eerie chromatic hooks.

With its brisk new wave bassline, Rattlesnake is essentially a long one-chord jam, bringing to mind the trippy sounds wafting off the Black Sea thirty-five years ago (for a good introduction to vintage 70s Turkish psychedelia, see the magical reissue compilation Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu). The album winds up with the similarly upbeat, catchy, anthemic Sleep Drifter. If the rest of the band’s planned four additional albums this year are half as good as this, we’re in for a hell of a 2017, Trump or no Trump. 

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