Sunday, May 1 @ 4:30 pm, Reverberation Stage
“Nonagon infinity opens the door,” sings Stu Mackenzie, frontman of Australian psych-rockers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. It turns out, though, that once the door’s open, it never closes. That’s because the Melbourne septet has ingeniously crafted what may be the world’s first infinitely looping LP. Each of the nine, complex, blistering tracks on ‘Nonagon Infinity’ seamlessly flows into the next, with the final song linking straight back into the top of the opener like a sonic mobius strip. It’s exactly the kind of ambitious vision that prompted Rolling Stone to dub the band “one of the most compelling collectives of art-rock experimentalists in recent years.” But far from a simple conceptual experiment, the album is both an exhilarating shot of adrenaline and a remarkable feat of craftsmanship, the result of painstaking planning and an eye for detail years in the making.
The roots of ‘Nonagon Infinity’ stretch back to 2014, when King Gizzard recorded their critically acclaimed album “I’m In Your Mind Fuzz,” which was hailed by Pitchfork as “dense, intricately crafted, and most importantly, powerful.”
“We actually wanted to do this with ‘Mind Fuzz,’ but it just didn’t work,” explains Mackenzie. “We ended up writing songs that needed to be on that record but didn’t connect to the others, so we had to abandon the idea, but the seeds were sown.”
To an outsider, it may have seemed like the band had completely given up on the concept, as the ever-prolific group quickly followed ‘Mind Fuzz’ with two more records in 2015, ‘Quarters’â€”described by The Guardian as “the neon intersection of DIY psych and 1960s beach pop”â€”and the stripped-down ‘Paper Mache Dream Balloon,’ which earned praise from NPR to Stereogum. The truth, though, was that King Gizzard was honing in on the ‘Nonagon Infinity’ material the whole time, test-driving various tracks in their explosive live shows to prep for the monumental task of stitching them all together into one searing, multi-movement epic.
“We really wanted to focus on things that felt good live,” says Mackenzie. “We’d grab a little riff here or a little groove there, and we’d jam on them and form songs out of them, which was the opposite of ‘Paper Mache,’ where we were making songs in an acoustic, classic-songwriting kind of way. I wanted to have an album where all these riffs and grooves just kept coming in and out the whole time, so a song wasn’t just a song, it was part of a loop, part of this whole experience where it feels like it doesn’t end and doesn’t need to end.”
Recorded at Daptone Studios in Brooklyn, the final result is an intricate and immersive listening experience. Lyrical refrains and musical motifs establish themselves and then submerge beneath the chaos, only to resurface unexpectedly later like familiar companions on a labyrinthine journey. Motorhead-grade riffs give way to King Crimson and Yes-levels of prog complexity, as songs churn through unusual time signatures and shifting rhythms with blunt force, laying waste to everything in their path.
“I wanted it to feel like a horror or sci-fi movie,” explains Mackenzie of the album’s dark overtones. “The lyrics came as a stream of consciousness, all of these elements just falling out of my head as it was happening.”
“Big Fig Wasp” references a particularly macabre insect that must kill itself in order to perpetuate the species, while “Gamma Knife,” with its 11/8-time drum solo, is named for a surgical tool that burns cuts into the skin, and “People-Vultures” plays like a sinister film soundtrack. Album opener “Robot Stop” pulls more directly from the band’s recent experiences, inspired in part by their relentless work ethic and tour schedule, which has included festival performances atÂ Bonnaroo, Glastonbury,Â Montreux Jazz & Roskilde as well as countless sold out dates in rooms across the USA, UK, Europe and Australia.
“That song’s about feeling overworked, like a bit of a robot that’s just going to crash and die or something,” he says with a laugh. “But you get yourself up and do it again and you robot on and you’re alright. It was one of the early ones we wrote for the record, and I think when that song came together, everybody started to feel like were going to actually be able to pull off this never-ending album idea.”
To say they pulled it off would be an understatement. The record is a force to be reckoned with on par with the road trains Mackenzie references in the album’s final track.
“In the Australian desert, in the outback, there are what’s called road trains, which are these massive trucks pulling heaps of carriages that can end up being 50 meters long,” he explains. “They drive on the road really, really fast, and they’re deadly, with these bars in the front to kill kangaroos and anything else in their path.”
‘Nonagon Infinity’ has opened the door for King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, and they’re barreling ahead with more momentum than ever before now. Much like those road trains, with a band this good, the safest place to be is onboard.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are:
Stu Mackenzie â€“ Guitar, lead vocals
Joe Walker â€“ Guitar, vocals
Eric Moore – Drums
Ambrose Kenny-Smith â€“ Harmonica, vocals
Lucas Skinner – Bass
Cook Craig – Guitar
Michael Cavanagh – Drums