Ticking off number three from their five-album projection for 2017 – a forecast that is appearing ever more achievable – Sketches of Brunswick East is certainly a far cry from the exhilarating garage-psych that put King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard on the map. True to its namesake (legendary trumpeter Miles Davis’s seminal Sketches of Spain) Sketches offers their most jazz-influenced work to date, featuring a loose, improvisational feel and a seemingly endless supply of tasty chord progressions, nonetheless without sacrificing that distinct, ever-hard to pin down King Gizzard sound.
Frontman Stu Mackenzie showcases his talents on the flute on intro track ‘Sketches of Brunswick East I’ (reprised twice more throughout the album); a simple yet eerily beautiful melody that calls to mind Duke Ellington’s ‘Caravan’. Next is ‘Countdown’, an initially easygoing, lounge-inspired tune that takes a darker turn with its fission-inducing chorus; the auditory equivalent of sipping a spiked martini in a cocktail lounge, only for the walls to suddenly melt into a sea of swirling colours.
‘Tezeta’, a surreal, grooving reflection on nostalgia, features some immensely satisfying piano noodling and a brooding instrumental jam, while several times inexplicably breaking out into a whimsical waltz. The cool, bossa-nova vibes of ‘The Spider and Me’ and ‘You Can Be Your Silhouette’ inescapably generates the desire to laze in a park on a summers day (the former at around midday, while the latter perhaps more early evening). ‘The Book’ wouldn’t sound out of place in the soundtrack to a Scooby Doo episode; whether this is a good or bad thing I have yet to decide, but either way, it’s catchy as hell!
‘The Book’ wouldn’t sound out of place in the soundtrack to a Scooby Doo episode; whether this is a good or bad thing I have yet to decide, but either way, it’s catchy as hell!
Significant credit has to go to Alex Brettin (the Trent Reznor of Mild High Club), whose eclectic skills on the keyboard and bustling production style truly gives Sketches its character. Certainly also worth mentioning are the train horns, building works, birds, background chatter and various other sound effects that permeate the album, providing a sense of the restlessness and perpetual life of an urban environment.
Overall, Sketches is a thoroughly absorbing album – one that manages to effortlessly balance musicality with psychedelic wackiness. Though their tendency to drastically change style between albums runs the risk of alienating casual fans, Sketches has once again proved King Gizzard to be both only one of the most exciting and spectacularly versatile bands currently out there.