WPGM Commentary: Flightless – The Resurrection of Psych

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Flightless Records was founded by Eric Moore in Melbourne in 2012 using ‘Dole’ money to ship out the label’s early releases. Since then it has grown into what is, arguably, the most prolific, refreshing and continually surprising record label in the music industry right now.

Flightless is an oasis of joy and artistic freedom in an industry dominated by a stifling play-it-safe mentality. So stop whatever it is you’re doing, crack out the vegemite (I realise that’s a lazy stereotype) and prepare yourself for a sonic journey into the land of Oz, where DIY Psychedelia bands: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and The Babe Rainbow have a thing or two to teach us.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

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This Melbourne based Art-Rock septet are a testament to the freedom of expression Flightless Records represents. Indeed, King Gizzard can be argued to embody the very spirit of Psychedelia. The genre shouldn’t be defined solely by Hendrix-esque guitar solos and paisley shirts, but by its ability to blend reality and fantasy, allowing for the listener to perceive their environment in a different light.

King Gizzard’s two most recent albums are a perfect example of this. The albums frame themselves within the parameters of a concept, but within this concept, the songs jitter and pulse with the band’s acid-induced approach to tonality and texture. The 2010 album, Nonagon Infinity is comprised of nine tracks which blend together seamlessly. One track to the next, but also the last track to the first track. So effectively the entire album can be regarded as one 45 minute single, or an infinite loop.

The Gizzard’s new record Flying Microtonal Banana maintains their conceptual approach to aural composition. Front man Stu Mackenzie reportedly gave each band member $200 to make their instruments microtonal, which essentially means that their guitars allowed for 24 notes per octave rather than 12.

In this way, Flying Microtonal Banana is a record characterised its ability to transcend the specific set of frequencies an average listener’s ear is culturally attuned to, whilst remaining sonically palatable. This forces the listener to break out of the pre-established musical forms perpetuated by popular music for so long.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are a band re-establishing guitar based music as a means of artistic expression, rather than a means to commercial success. The freedom of expression and prolific output that they continually demonstrate is evidence to suggest that psychedelia’s role as a pioneer-genre is as prevalent as ever.

Nonagon Infinity is an example of the way in which King Gizzard actively exploits the way today’s listener consumes music, and uses this an artistic influence. Likewise, Flying Microtonal Banana confronts us with the reality that music doesn’t have to be made within the limitations enforced by Western music.

In this way, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard can be seen to undermine pre-established methods of musical creation from the inside out. In an age in which people are becoming increasingly aware of the destructive nature of ‘societal norms’, King Gizzard’s avant-garde Rock is exactly what the world needs to hear.

The Babe Rainbow

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Flightless Records also plays host to 60’s psychedelia revivalists The Babe Rainbow. Their most recent single release “Peace Blossom Boogie” anticipates the band’s self-titled debut LP, a record which continues to promote the band’s unadulterated message of peace, love and happiness for all.

The Babe Rainbow blend the colourful instrumentation of jangly crystalline guitars and sumptuous sitar lines with an accessible and pleasantly ephemeral three minute pop-song structure. This leads to a nostalgia-inducing sonic trip which transports the listener back in time to the summer of love, only to drop them back in the present and leave them craving another hit.

What makes The Babe Rainbow all the more fascinating is the fact that they seem to truly live within the 1960’s green-change counter culture that psychedelia promoted. It’s almost as if someone stumbled across the three musicians perfectly preserved within a lump of fossilised tree sap.

The band has mentioned that “Secret Enchanted Broccoli Forest” was inspired by their time spent working on a local organic farm. It might not seem very rock n’ roll, but that’s not what The Babe Rainbow are about. They are a band who have freed themselves from the connotations that previous generation’s musical endeavours assign to those that follow in their footsteps.

This band’s ability to embody the joyful compassion of 1960’s counter-culture, without losing their place within the musical context of their own time, allows the band to encourage that same compassion and care-free optimism to a society saturated with fear, hatred and suspicion. The Babe Rainbow are solar-powered, a product of the Australian sunlight. Indeed that same sun can be felt in the warmth and vitality of their music.

The Pizza box philosophy of founder Eric Moore seems to reverberate throughout the label. A sheer love for music is what drives Flightless and its artists’ creative vision.

Flightless is the flagship of a new wave of musical exploration, one freed from the constraints that money, fame and the industry itself have imposed on so many bands for far too long, and is therefore the perfect record label for a world that seems to have the forgotten the ability music has to alter an individual’s attitude and perspective.

King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and The Babe Rainbow are just two examples of the fantastic selection of pioneering artists that Flightless has to offer. Go forth and relish its colourful array of undeniably unique music.

Keep Tabs on Flightless Records: Facebook // YouTube // Website

Words by Sam Kemp

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