Review: Bullant ‘Tyson, Crying’

Words by Cole Costello
Graphic by Flightless

Despite his reputation as a guitarist and occasional vocalist in King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Joey Walker’s music has always hinted a fascination with the eerie and the electronic. A clued-in insider might point out that before Gizzard’s profile started to explode, Walker DJ’d about his home city of Melbourne as one half of Trumpdisco.  But even as part of Gizzard there have also been hints. As Walker’s Gumboot Soup’s and Fishing for Fishies’ contributions ‘Superposition’ and ‘Acarine’ attest, Walker is not averse to tinkering with electronic elements.

With debut solo album Tyson, Crying Walker brings this fasciation to the fore. And, true to the King Gizzard spirit, this record is not what fans might expect. Filled with the digital trills and throbbing percussion, Tyson, Crying is brimming with haunted and atmospheric moods. Aside from a few brief unintelligible words, the album is mostly instrumental. And only one song, opener ‘VIEWBANK,’ features any guitarwork at all.

How did it come about? Well, as the album’s initial press releases reveal most of Tyson, Crying was recorded in 2018 using “a demo version of Reason and an Ableton crack.” Because of the limitations of this software, no sessions could be saved. As such, each track was recorded in a single sitting.

When Bullant’s first singles arrived some fans were dismissive. Some derided the songs “background music”. But this feels reductive. While it is true that most of these cuts don’t offer much in the way of melody, Tyson, Crying is more about atmosphere than immediacy.

VIEWBANK’ is the perfect example. In a listener’s mind, this first track’s tone could conjure images of bright blue skies on a childhood day or the nostalgic bleeps of a video game’s opening menu. Whatever the mental image, a drum machine slowly disrupts it. And, as the bright nostalgia erodes, ‘VIEWBANK’ becomes claustrophobic. Things start to feel a bit stressful and dirtier. This transition, and others like it, happen so seamlessly that the first time through each song feels like a hypnotic blur. It’s only with repeated listening that songs like these become impressive. Sections that are completely different bleed into one another with little notice. ‘VIEWBANK’ continues evolving with various layers of synth and drum machine before working in some ominous guitar. When it does appear, Joey’s playing feels anxious, adding a very nice touch to an already dense song.

This feeling of anxiety and at times flat out terror can be felt throughout. ‘When You Can’t Bail’, the shortest track on the album, can alternatively be compared to springtime in an industrial wasteland or a slow, mystical train ride threatening to slide off the rails on every turn. ‘Simpsons Suck Now’ is another trip. The album’s leading single arrived with an accompanying video featuring Amy Taylor of Amyl & the Sniffers and memories of the film clips an abstract image of a broken home stick with the album version. Throughout it, one can hear what sounds like footsteps running down a wet, concrete alley or frantic knocks on a door. ‘XHamster Invoice’ feels equally dystopic.

Countering the nervousness and frenzy heard on these songs, other points are relaxing, occasionally funky, and dare it be said jazzy.  Rhythmic groovers ‘Paris Phill 1967’ and ‘Enough Rope With Andrew Denton’ play out as rhythmic groovers.  ‘Paris Phill’ builds itself around a vacuum-sounding noise, the waves of which slowly build around it as percussive elements enter the mix as well. ‘Enough Rope’ could well be the highlight of this album. Starting with what sounds like the mimicking of a crashing ocean and distant birds, synths then cut through the soundscape. ‘Paris Phill’ then develops into a calm, dark, reflective, but fast-paced experiment. The last two minutes are punctuated by the pulsing throbs and whimsical synth flourishes, only further highlighting the song’s status as the most interesting number on a very interesting release.

Closer to Aphex Twin than the Grateful Dead, Tyson, Crying is not what was expected for Joey’s first solo release. Given his contributions to Gizzard, one might have expected heartfelt lyrics, blazing guitar lines, and magical melodies. Perhaps he’s simply saving that kind of material for King Gizzard – a group which, with exception of more left of center excursions like these – his commitment remains total.

No doubt there’s a lot of pressure involved in being in one of the world’s hardest touring bands. Perhaps Bullant is a response to the tension Gizzard creates. Something loose, informal, and spontaneous.

But whether this kind of music is something fans will see more or none of in future, Joey Walker has already proven himself a musician. Tyson, Crying is trying to show the listener something else to fans, something other than what they already know. What that is may is not up all listeners’ alleys, though certain it adds another layer of complexity to Walker’s persona.

With King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard one never knows what to expect. Dividing that wild spontaneity by a 7th does not change this. Tyson, Crying is yet another reason not to underestimate King Gizzard’s musicianship and originality.

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