Flightless Records – 2020

Birth. Death. Taxes. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard releasing new music. These are the constants of life. Coming just over a year, a long time in King Gizzard fandom scale, after their last studio album Infest The Rats Nest which saw the Australian, now 6 piece, venture into yet another sonic territory of thrash metal, K.G. is the latest instalment in the ever expansive King Gizzard catalogue. 2017 saw the band release 5 studio albums, a feat within itself, but if you count all of the live releases the band have released this year as well as the demos album then technically this is their 8th release of this year alone. This album also isn’t just the next in the bands prolific output however, it’s also subtitled as “Explorations Into Microtonal Tuning Volume 2”, following on from 2017’s Flying Microtonal Banana. Taking inspiration from Turkish folk music, using instruments with microtonal tuning, notes in between a normal scale of notes. Keen eared listeners will also hear that the high pitched note that detunes at the very of “Flying Microtonal Banana” the song gets reversed and leads in the opening track “K.G.L.W”. With a melody almost exactly the same as “Billabong Valley” the band open with familiar grounds to ease you in, just to take you on one of the wildest rides a King Gizzard album has brought about to date.

This idea of songs flowing into one another is something that King Gizzard have been using for many albums now, just look at Nonagon Infinity, if put on loop that album would literally never reach a conclusion. But the difference on K.G. is that every song flows into each song almost seamlessly whilst simultaneously changing styles in between. You need look no further than the transition from the acoustic love ballad of “Honey” to the Black Sabbath infused sludge metal closer “The Hungry Wolf Of Fate”. Changing styles has been the one constant of King Gizzard, you never know where they’ll take it next. It seem quite apt that a self titled album would follow this pattern through every song. But it’s not just the band giving a half inspired attempt at these styles, the truly go all in. “Intrasport” is the bands first outing into “Turkish 90’s House” as they put it. A funky bass line, great groove, big drops, and hushed vocals of “Liquified hair” and “Ignited taste buds” all point to one thing, we need a full King Gizzard house album. There’s of course the usual outings into heavy rock in the forms of “Automation” and “Oddlife”, the latter of which almost treading into punk territory with Ambrose Kenny-Smiths proclaimed chorus lines.

It’s worth noting that this album was created during quarantine and lockdown with each of the band members sending ideas back and forth to each other. It’s quite something to create an album that sounds so tightly composed, whilst each member was separated from the rest. A true testament to the band’s synchronicity. But even whilst members were apart the sound of this album is as tight as ever, with frontman Stu Mackenzie once again taking production duties. Wether it’s the bubbling synthesisers and power chords of “Some Of Us” or the driving drum beats of “Ontology”, there’s never a moment that the soundscapes the band creates become less than hypnotic. Flavours of woodwind instruments and ethereal synths spliced throughout. It doesn’t mean to say however that the lo-fi sound that was found in the days of Float Along, Fill Your Lungs is completely gone. The acoustic guitars on “Straws In The Wind” sound almost like they were recorded in a bathroom, with a jarring off key texture to them. And yet they fit in with the rest of the sound almost effortlessly. They make a reappearance on lead single “Honey” from which Mackenzie has said that they were recorded on an iPhone to give them that signature grainy distortion. A technique the band previously used on debut album 12 Bar Bruise with the title track. Their sound has come a long way since then, but the essence has stayed the same.

The gizzverse is a story that has been described throughout many of King Gizzards albums, taking influence from modern day political and ecological landscapes. It’s always hard to say for sure when the band might or might not be alluding to this story. But the zeitgeist of the present day can be still be heard in various moments. “Like the wind on a sail, I’ll steer you along, And the germs outside I’ll keep you from”, a clear reference to the reason this album was recorded in isolation on “Honey”. And a slightly more general look of the world comes on “Straws In The Wind” as Kenny-Smith sings “Cooking something raw, cooking something big, Pandemonium, selfish pigs, Headless chickens scared shitless, The media will never quit”. King Gizzard have always had a talent to sew their political and ideological views carefully into their lyrics and on this album it’s perhaps its most prevalent, leaving little to be interpreted. “It’s fun, fuck the system” declares Mackenzie on opener “Automation”. K.G. still, as per standard, has its fair share of harrowing, world building stories as well. “I used to drеam about killing certain people, Drеams that sew me up like sleeping with a needle, Those feelings that I had are building up to something” proclaims Joey Walker on “Intrasport”. Under the cover of the funky groove of the song it would be easy to dismiss it as just King Gizzard’s most danceable songs to date, but peel back the layers and hidden underneath is a horror story waiting to be discovered. A trope that the band seems to have perfected, just go and read the lyrics of the happy-go-lucky sounding Paper Maché Dream Ballon.

Although K.G. might not be the bands most left-field outing, using some familiar sounds and ideas that have cropped up in previous projects, it might just stand as there most refined project to date. Working well under the self-titled name, this album stands as a pillar stone for everything King Gizzard. Screeching guitars, nightmare dystopian themes and fantastic riffs and melodies, all whilst holding a profound amount of musicianship. If anybody is looking for a place to start in the chronicles of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, this is certainly a well-serving springboard for what the band has offered so far.

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