One may find it difficult to find a band or artist as prolific as the Melbourne, Australia-based King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard. With 11 albums already to their name, it’s most appropriate to describe King Gizzard as a collective of relentlessly hard-working mad men unhinged by their eclectic weirdness.
After customizing their instrumental setup for microtonal scales in the hypnotic Flying Microtonal Banana, then pulverizing listeners with aggressive psychedelic muddiness in their destructive three-chapter path through Murder of the Universe earlier this year, King Gizzard introduces another dimension to their creative sphere with the band’s third album of the year (yes, ridiculous, I know). Although the band’s prolific efforts have consistently rewarded listeners with bold jumps in style, Sketches of Brunswick East, a jazz-leaning project should not cause anyone to mistake them for experimental virtuosos. Needless to say, King Gizzard’s latest work will delight those who are willing to take a chance on their brave ventures through avant-garde jazz, which is in collaboration with Alex Brettin of Mild High Club.
Inspired by the titular Melbourne suburb in which they have devised their vast discography, Sketches of Brunswick East is an album perfectly pitched between Mild High Club’s hues of laid back lo-fi and King Gizzard’s zany spells of psychedelic sporadicism. While this record possesses many Gizzard-isms and trippy freak-outs from their back catalog, the overarching jazz is a refreshing sound for the Aussies. Sketches unwinds with a grooviness unlike anything the band has displayed thus far, as it takes a naturally languished approach, strolling by like a late summer afternoon while basking in the mellow sunshine with an unfettered sense of relaxation. This carefree atmosphere and meditational charisma are punctuated by tumbling drums, sticky bass work, whimsical woodwinds and overall melodies that are liberated as can be.
King Gizzard had never been ones for concise arrangements, and on Sketches the band proves no different as its sound sprawls with mysticism, takes languid twists and turns and stretches to extremes without ever meandering through its attempts at free-flowing forms of sound. With lounge jazz influences domineering every nook and cranny, there are occasional trips of allusions to prior albums and psychedelia that give Sketches just enough variance to hold listeners’ breaths in apprehension. Tracks like “D-Day” and “The Book” are a pleasant surprise as they pay homage to Flying Microtonal Banana and its mesmeric microtones. The spooky “Tezeta” reacquaints familiar listeners with Han-Tyumi (main character of the third chapter from Murder of the Universe), who appears to be recovered from his episode of ceaseless vomiting and destructive mindset toward murdering the universe. “Journey to (S)hell” shifts from subliminal lounge jazz and turns its listeners on their heads with sudden psychedelic lunacy complete with squealing guitars and synthesizers. The rest of the tracks however, relinquish themselves to the overarching leisure and mysticism set forth by the jazzy wizardry of the Mild High Club.
Needless to say, there will be those who criticize this album for sounding too much like a Mild High Club project and will go as far to ding this record for crossing the threshold into elevator music territory. Even if such criticisms bear slight validity, the release of Sketches just goes to show that there are no limits to King Gizzard’s creative scope—it hits all the right spots while harkening to days of few worries and plenty of blissful haze. Yet, there’s just enough grit to Sketches to keep listeners on their toes, aware of the artistry beneath it all, making this wave of indulgent ambiance even sweeter. Expansive but subtle, this album flairs a special kind of warmth, one that seems fitting for the current late summer heat, yet will feel just as pleasant once fall’s first breeze nears.
Ever since their inception into the public stratosphere, King Gizzard has experimented with psychedelic rock/pop, surf, garage, folk and space rock, and now they can add jazz to their sonic resume. The conceptual path after Sketches of Brunswick East remains a mystery for King Gizzard. But with two more albums set to be released before they reach their lofty goal of five albums released in one year, don’t be surprised to see King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard expand their creative horizons once more as their boundless imaginations and unyielding work ethic continue to render their meteoric rise to popularity.
Follow writer Kyle Kohner at Twitter.com/kylejkohner.