How do the Flaming Lips maintain their unrelenting productivity and still stay freaky? In the case of Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk, the band’s creative nucleus — singer Wayne Coyne and multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd — supplement their theatrical space-rock with the kindred weirdoes of Linear Downfall, a similarly psychedelic quartet from Nashville.
Linear Downfall reside on a warped aesthetic planet parallel to their Oklahoma pals, making them ideal partners. Although it’s as experimental as anything on the periphery of the Lips’ constantly growing discography, this half-hour mini-album is disciplined and satisfyingly paced: The quiet passages are quite gentle, and the harsh sections don’t ramble. Coyne croons in a less recognizable falsetto, and although that might get tiring on a full set of conventional songs, here his high-pitched howls alternate with pulsating instrumental blow-outs and softly buzzing bits.
The opening cut “I Could Only See Clouds” flaunts some actual if unconventional hooks — a brittle guitar figure, synth tuba farts, jungle tom-tom rolls and a pair of lovely keyboard melodies. All of these miraculously cooperate with one another without getting cluttered as Coyne floats cloudlike over them all. There’s also a tricky staccato riff that lives up to the record’s advance billing as the Lips’ latest venture into progressive rock.
But Electric Würms is essentially a twisted garage band’s impression of prog: Their cover of Yes’s “Heart of the Sunrise” focuses on the song’s simplest vocal passage. “Transform”, meanwhile, finds inspiration in a 1971 live Miles Davis track “Sivad,” but only the first few seconds of its opening riff, which resembles a Can jam.
Indeed, Musik sticks closer to the hypnotic heaviness of Krautrock: The steadily chugging “The Second Time” is essentially a Neu! tribute, while the undulating “Futuristic Hallucination” and the ominous “The Bat” recall other ’70s German bands like the earliest incarnations of Tangerine Dream and Amon Düül II. Despite its title, this isn’t particularly difficult music: Some could conceivably twerk to it, but the rest of us will more likely express our approval with twitches.