Text: Lucas Rebreyend
“Mycelium”… did King Gizzard 2022 run out of air while fermenting, resulting in the appearance of questionable fungus in the long-awaited brew? It’s unfortunate, especially since the health of the band’s figurehead, Stu Mackenzie, has already forced the band to cancel their entire European tour due to a relapse of Crohn’s disease (yes, yes, I was one of the unfortunate ones who had bought their tickets months before the terrible announcement) … but it’s only a postponement! Taking advantage of his temporary retirement from the infernal rhythm the band has shown since its beginnings (studio/albums/tours/festival organisation/label management…), our aforementioned Stu offers us as an apology the recording of their Live at Bonnaroo from June, letting us know with a mischievous air that something is on the way… and even, some thingS.
Because it’s not with ONE surprise that the six lads proudly return to the front of the stage, but with a triplet; three new albums announced for the end of the year, nothing less.
“Mycelium” is thus the opening track of this first opus, whose disturbing artwork announces the best of what the band could offer in terms of psychedelic, weird, dissonant, experimental, in short, of what they do best. And I’ll even add a last adjective: unexpected. Because this album, once again, breaks the codes of the previous ones and serves us a brand new Gizzardian recipe. On a very British rhythmic, the band unfolds an ode to mushrooms (yes) and to their fundamental role in our evolution. And this, over 8 minutes. Because with this album, the formula is improvisation. Each track extends into long experimental tracks where furious acid guitar solos intermingle with stellar keyboards. Right after, “Ice V” takes us into an atmosphere that Santana would not have disowned with its procession of Latin percussions. In the associated video, Joey Walker, the band’s main lead guitarist, performs a series of unique swaying moves on the outskirts of a coastal village. It is mentioned that the album was produced in the Wurrundjeri region, an Aboriginal term that the band uses to express its recognition of the original lands on which modern Australia was built; the fight for Aboriginal rights being a cause dear to the band since its international media coverage.
“Magma” continues the endless jam with its share of lit fuzz and ethnic wind instruments, but the formula runs out of steam a bit on such a long track. We finally temper with “Lava” and its languid intro à la Miles Davis period ’70, all flutes out. The electricity comes back into play in the middle of the song, in the shape of a nervous and hypnotic mantra; “The Volcano is death, the Lava is death, Death is life, the Lava is life” ad vitam.
From the title of this opus, you could have guessed that a celebration of the natural elements would be at work. Indeed, Nature -and its slow modern agony- is a recurring theme in the band’s discography, while a precursor track like ‘Crumbling Castle’ (Polygondwanaland, 2017) already hinted at a strong interest in our environment and the way we exploit it. At the same time, Stu has already explained several times in interviews his fascination with the impermanence of things, and more plainly, death.
Good vibes, then… the fact remains that music remains an outlet in these troubled times to keep one’s head high in the face of adversity of events over which no one can have any real control. As far as control is concerned, “Hell’s Itch” reveals a lesson in multiple improvisations, along a track of over 13 minutes. But the real tour de force, apart from the length, lies in the following track, and especially its impressive clip. “Iron Lung”, telling the story of the multiple constraints of life in this device invented to isolate from any contact with the outside world, is accompanied by a psychedelic video, suggesting the kaleidoscopic visuals of a trip under hallucinogens… mushroom when you hold us.
The smoke clears, and the final track, “Gliese 970”, is chanted in the shape of an ominous jazz. In fact, it is a distant star in our galaxy whose trajectory will cross our sun in 1.3 million years… quite a thought.
Through an album that gives way to improvisations and various solos, the band encapsulates the logic of their live performances: a single melody stretches as it pleases, according to one’s inspiration, and this without standard limits. With very few expected structures and few or no choruses, this first of three brothers must in my opinion be approached as a compact whole, a mosaic of ideas intertwined in each other, the result of almost 13 years of multiple experimentations with everything related to the Sound. We can’t wait for the next part!