Releasing four albums in a single year is no mean feat, yet, it’s the structural disparity from release to release that’s the most remarkable part of this machine.
From the deconstruction of mainframe guitars seeking off-kilter arrangements on Flying Microtonal Banana to the improvisation and enlistment of exteriors on Sketches of Brunswick East to the segmented, Lord of the Rings-akin crusade of Murder of the Universe, the seven-piece are capitalising on the tuition of their early work to unclutter their own path through the woods.
Most recently, the appetite for polyrhythms and incompatible beats on their fourth 2017 effort Polygondwanaland has shuddered instincts of the musically wise and catapulted Stu Mackenzie and his six-member cavalcade among the intellectual elite.
Mackenzie, frontman and multi-instrumentalist, believes much of the opus’ design evolved as the journey of album nine, ten and eleven unfurled. “All these songs were made concurrently with the rest of the records. We’ve been playing ‘Crumbling Castles’ since late last year and that’s a song that’s slowly evolved from something quite simple into this huge monster with these different sections and parts.
“This record’s been a bit of a slow burner for us and it’s taken us a long time to put together. It’s been a case where other things have seeped into it, I suppose, which is something that’s been more subconscious than anything. All of the records this year have had a lot of overlap.”
In layman’s terms, a polyrhythm pairs two contrasting rhythms simultaneously. Jargon aside, it makes for an off-kilter beat – where alternate percussive elements work together despite their apparent differences. It’s through the use of synthesisers on Polygondwanaland, that you can hear this most.
“We were thinking about this polyrhythmic thing, working on these polymeters and with the arpeggiated synths – it’s really easy to layer these different rhythms on top of each other. You’re getting these synths that are really rhythmic so it just felt like it was within the nature of the record. The synths kept on coming and coming and we ended up with a lot of arpeggiators on it; it was fun to do that.”
Adventurous by composition, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have been just as exploratory by narrative. Enveloping their music with spoken-word contraptions has paralleled the narrator with the listener, opening the door to many of the stories previously hazed by Mackenzie’s fuzzy vocal distortion.
A technique designed to exalt the theatre on Murder of the Universe is also copiously invested on their second LP, Eyes Like the Sky. The component is seldom ventured on Polygondwanaland, nevertheless, psychedelia doesn’t refrain as pioneers experience a renaissance in the wake of a crumbling civilisation.
“With Polygon, we ended up with four distinct parts. You’ve got ‘Crumbling Castle’ being its own sort of part and then ‘Polygondwanaland’ through to ‘Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet’, which is its own mini story and then ‘Inner Cell’, ‘Horology’ and ‘Loyalty’ is its own narrative, ending with ‘Tetrachromacy’ through to ‘The Fourth Colour’.
“They all exist as their own universe but they all link with each other a lot too. When we worked out what order the tracks were going to go in and how it was all going to be sequenced, we started to figure out how they all related to each other. It’s all coming together; our world and landscape is being painted more and more as time goes on.”
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard play their first Melbourne show since the release of Polygondwanaland at Gizzfest. Returning for its third year, the band’s self-administered, solely-pioneered, taste making extravaganza invites label mates, international companions and burgeoning local talent alike.
Welcoming the likes of Japanese psych futurists Kikagaku Moyo, Cali surf rockers La Luz on top of local legends The Murlocs, ORB, Leah Senior, Parsnip and much more, the Melbourne leg will also see an exclusive set from Los Angeles jazz poppers and Sketches of Brunswick East co-writers Mild High Club.
Collaboratively moulded during Mild High Club’s last Australian foray 12 months ago, Sketches of Brunswick East has yet to feature on the live stage. Whether that changes for Gizzfest remains to be seen but Mackenzie is bullish about the prospects.
“I hope so, we’re going to see how we go with that one. I think they [Mild High Club] arrive the day of the event so we aren’t going to be able to practice so if we do it, it’s going to be loose. I’d like to [play some Sketches tracks] but we’ll see,” Mackenzie says.
The ingenuity and scouting nous of King Gizzard drummer and manager Eric Moore will see the main stage accompanied by ten mini demountable stages individually curated by labels and music venues.
Moontown Records, Wondercore Island, Hysterical, Anti Fade, Shaky Memorial, Bank Records, Aarght and Flightless have summoned a huge list of local acts, including Bitch Diesel, Clever Austin, Bananagun, Suss Cunts and Treehouse, to name a few. On top of that, The Curtin and The Tote have curated their own stages for what proves to be a wild day of voyage and discovery.