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The current revival of psychedelic music has created an influx of interesting and unique musicians. The incredible array of influences within the genre has led to some of the most creative music ever released. While there is an incredible wealth of modern psych artists creating their own unique sounds, none are able to mix up their sound better than Melbourne seven-piece King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Their 2012 debut 12 Bar Bruise was ripe with garage rock burners reminiscent of Useless Eaters or Ty Segall’s earliest, more lo-fi releases. Instead of continuing with the great sound established on the debut, King Gizzard’s second album was a self-proclaimed musical audiobook entitled Eyes Like The Sky. The album combined a story written and narrated by Broderick Smith with King Gizzard’s take on The Good, The Bad and The Ugly soundtrack. The group largely returned to their garage rock roots for their next three albums, however continued to evolve their sound and experiment with new song structures. The best example of this experimentation was their Castle Face debut, and critical breakthrough, I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, which expanded on the group's psychedelic tendencies and began to implement krautrock elements to their sound. Mind Fuzz was the band’s most complete and fully realized album to date and dramatically increased their worldwide exposure. It is on the heels of their best album yet that King Gizzard decided it was time for the next dramatic shift with the release of their sixth full length Quarters!
Quarters! is not Eyes Like The Sky Part 2, however there are two key similarities between the two albums. First, both albums experiment with unique song structures, as Quarters! is a collection of four ten minute songs. The second major similarity between the albums is their ability to completely transform the King Gizzard sound. The fury, aggression and krautrock tendencies of Mind Fuzz are largely missing on Quarters! and have been replaced by a more relaxed, sunshine-drenched sound. Second, while label-mates Thee Oh Sees appeared to be the largest influence on Mind Fuzz, the influences on Quarters! are groups with less of a bite and more a groove. In fact, each song is able to successfully channel the sound and aesthetics of different artists including Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Foxygen and Santana. Although the influences and general sound of Quarters! might leave some confused, especially with its connection to Castle Face, it should not come as a huge surprise based on the current trajectory of Australian psych music. Fellow Australian music veterans Tame Impala and Pond, as well as many others within that scene, have been evolving from the classic 60’s psych sound into a more dance-based sound with major influence from 70’s and 80’s pop. The main difference between King Gizzard and their contemporaries is their ability to craft these songs largely with guitars as opposed to the synths which are beginning to overtake the scene.
There will always be hesitation from fans after hearing an artist has dramatically shifted their sound, especially as a follow-up to their best work. However, luckily for King Gizzard fans, while the sound is different, the songs are just as good. As previously mentioned, the album contains four tracks with the same run time of 10:10, and apart from a somewhat inflated “God Is In The Rhythm”, each track deserves the ten minute length. Album opener “The River” is perhaps the most unique track from King Gizzard yet as it graciously flows between a jazzy 5/4 rhythm and Santana influenced jungle jams. The multi-pronged guitar attack is the star throughout the album, however the tropical percussion does an excellent job of amplifying the track’s incredibly lively guitars. “The River” is followed by “Infinite Rise” whose swirling intro gives way to a funky, Unknown Mortal Orchestra influenced track. The influence of UMO is prevalent throughout the track, but is incredibly evident both while listening to its bass as well as its unique lo-fi production. In fact, “Infinite Rise” would not sound out of place on the recently released Unknown Mortal Orchestra album Multi-Love. “Infinite Rise” also features the only harmonica solo on the album which creates one of the album’s best moments, and leads one to wonder why it was not featured more prominently on other tracks. Next on the album is the easy-going, poppy “God Is In The Rhythm”. The classic pop of “God Is In The Rhthym” sounds akin to Foxygen if they indulged in their musical ability. The Innerspeaker-era Tame Impala guitar solos dominate the second half of the song, however they eventually start to wear thin and create the only instance on the album that feels tacked on.
The extended run time of “God Is In The Rhythm” is quickly forgotten, as it is followed up by possibly the best song King Gizzard yet. “Lonely Steel Sheet Flyer” is an instrumental throwback to the Ennio Morricone influenced sound of Eyes Like The Sky that puts an emphasis on the often overlooked surf influence of Morricone’s classic soundtracks. Once again the song is carried by multiple guitars, as their heavily reverbed sound create an impressive, at times disorienting, wall of sound. The reverbed guitars also contribute to the tracks easy-going beach feel. The final moments of “Lonely Steel Sheet Flyer” are largely reminiscent of the final track from Mind Fuzz entitled “Her & I” as both settle into a comfortable jam that feels as though it could go on forever and leaves listeners aching for more. Fortunately, King Gizzard release music at an incredible pace which will likely result in a new album within a few months.
On their sixth full length album since 2012, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard are able to once again successfully transform their sound. Quarters! largely replaces the heavy, krautrock influenced sound of I’m In Your Mind Fuzz with a more relaxed, sun drenched sound. The album is largely able to remain fresh throughout, despite its extended track lengths. Further, Quarters! continues to cement King Gizzard’s legacy as one of the most exciting, experimental bands in modern psych.