Australian psychedelic rock group King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s ninth full-length studio project (and first of five prospective albums to be released in 2017 alone) Flying Microtonal Banana is a feat of musical creativity and experimentation that is nothing short of impressive. Following the band’s consistent trend of selecting a singular concept for each album and exploring the limitations and parameters of that concept within the album, Flying Microtonal Banana is special for its unique and bizarre instrumentation. The entire album was recorded on microtonal instruments made custom for the members of the band that have the capability to reach notes in between the whole- and half-step notes prescribed by traditional Western music. These instruments create dark, mysterious, slightly-off melodies that lend Banana a dramatically hypnotic eastern theme, also supported by the band’s use of a traditional Turkish horn called a Zurna and tracks such as “Flying Microtonal Banana” and “Melting,” both sounding straight out of a Middle Eastern spy movie. Despite the relatively consistent musical keys and overarching mysterious tones of the microtonal songs, Banana offers captivating diversity in the genres and styles of the tracks, from the thumping Afro-funk-inspired “Nuclear Fusion” to the suspenseful Spaghetti Western “Billabong Valley.” King Gizzard took Banana in a brand-new direction away from the fast-paced, hypnotic hard rock tones of their previous record Nonagon Infinity to create a smoother, more mellow listening experience. While still maintaining the seven-piece band’s characteristic gritty production, powerful percussion, and sci-fi lyrics, Banana is a bit more relaxed, favoring continuously evolving rhythms and elaborate melodies over the electric stamina of Nonagon. Along with highly evolved musical experimentation, King Gizzard also explored extremely powerful lyrical themes that make Banana both relevant and impactful to its listeners. For example, on “Doom City”, lead singer Stu Mackenzie describes the dismal, thick, smog-filled air of a modern city. Environmental themes are consistent throughout the album, making Banana a subtle political statement beneath its musical triumph. KingGizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s wild experimentation and creativity with Flying Microtonal Banana leaves listeners on the edges of their seats, eager to hear what other strange and mystical destinations King Gizzard will lead us to in 2017.

-Sari Leff