King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard at Union Transfer
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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Just when you think you have King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard sussed they throw a curveball. Australia’s finest and most productive rock band have done this before, of course: while the world was still reeling from their 2014 breakthrough psych-punk masterpiece I’m In Your Mind Fuzz (2014) they casually released 2015’s expectation-confounding Paper Mâché Dream Balloon (2015), a pastoral, sun-drenched acid-folk album.
And now in the wake of two albums released in 2017 already, including most recently the dystopian end-times concept album Murder Of The Universe, which tackled in no uncertain terms the rise of robots and the downfall of mankind (and as such was the best since Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds), comes an entirely altered beast. Sketches Of Brunswick East is a collaboration between King Gizzard and Mild High Club, the Los Angeles based tripster troupe led by Alex Brettin, who put out one of 2016’s deepest listens, Skiptracing. The two bands formed a strong friendship touring together throughout the USA, Europe, and Australia.
“I think we hit it off because our approaches are very different…yet similar,” laughs Stu. “Alex has studied music, whereas my approach is to fling shit at the wall and see what sticks. I can’t read sheet music at all. But we’re like the two ends of a horseshoe coming to meet in the middle. We always talked about working together and after Gizzfest last year I said to Alex ‘Why not stick around and make a record?’ So he stayed at my house for three weeks and most days were spent in the studio making music with the rest of the guys. Jazz seeped into it, and we were listening to compilations of Ethiopian music form the 1960s and 70s a lot. It was in no way thought-out though. If Murder Of The Universe was our most conceptual and arranged album – then Sketches… is the exact opposite.”
Sketches Of Brunswick East is a soothing balm of a record; an aural salve to be tenderly applied to the world’s damaged collective psyche. It is a chance to show their sunny, playful side. Where previous albums have slipped down sonic worm-holes to explore distant galaxies, this one is an examination of (and homage to) the Melbourne suburb in which King Gizzard write and record in their own studio, and from where they run their planetspanning psychedelic operation.
“We’re always walking up and down the street all the time. Going to get coffee, lugging amps, just constantly wandering Lygon Street and spending a lot of time looking out into the distance, seeing the terrain change as new apartment buildings are erected, watching the cranes build bigger cranes. In that respect perhaps it represents greater changes that are happening in the wider world, and this is our attempt to find beauty within a place that we spend so much time.”
The title could be perceived as both a knowing nod towards Miles Davis’s Sketches Of Spain (whose fusion of American jazz, European classical and Spanish song structures gave us one of the 20th century’s most important albums), and the sketchy on-the-hop, improvised nature of its creation by these gnarly and feral Aussie dudes. It also sees the band further exploring the Tropicalia element only ever previously hinted at. Stu explains that a change of pace and tempo was necessary after “a concurrent period of productivity, a ball of energy and ideas”. Logistically, its creation saw the sifting through “piles of ideas” previously laid down during intense periods of creation that their frontman confesses he barely remembers having taken place. Truly this is impulsive music, sketches of time and place reworked and pieced together, akin to, says Stu “sampling-culture, in which old ideas are reshaped and suddenly things make sense. It was like we were continually jamming with ourselves.”
Centre piece ‘Dawn To Dusk On Lygon Street’ is a blissful work, where the sounds of the street – cicadas, engines, barking dogs – are captured as the sun sets on another glorious day, while ‘Tezeta’ recalls Brazilian pioneers Os Mutantes. The warm tones of Gilberto Gil resonate through tracks such as ‘The Spider And Me’ and elsewhere they shift between bossa nova, samba, the waltz and jazz tones with masterful ease, and all filtered through The Gizz’s ever-turning Antipodean kaleidoscope.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are a true music head’s dream. Previous releases have seen a cyclical album sequenced to play on an infinite loop, a four-part album of pieces exactly 10 minutes and 10 seconds in length and older riffs and refrains continually resurfacing in new forms. Their music forms a sonic mosaic, to be pieced together across an array of amazing packaging that might include scratch and sniff stickers, retina-bothering coloured vinyl (glow in the dark, ‘vomit splatter’ or ‘blue toxic mustard’ anyone?) translucent cassettes, giant wall-filling posters and so much more.
Sketches Of Brunswick East is the third of five projected albums to be released in 2017. “We don’t expect everyone to like everything that we release, but I hope people can view these five records as one body of work,” says Stu of this grand creative undertaking. “They’ve been made at the same time, by the same people, in the same place, and they all overlap."
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