In 2010, Peter Gabriel shared a theory that many artists have championed since time immemorial: happy music that is genuinely happy is probably the most difficult music to write. That same year, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard embarked on a journey of building an autonomous universe of demented prog and acid-fried freak-outs. These may be estates outside of Solsbury Hill and much of their own catalog, but the dream ease of Butterfly 3000 makes Gabrielian’s promised land of joyous music seem at hand.
Despite all their forward movement, the Melbourne band specializes in a certain insane non-linearity. On albums like Infinite nonagon and Flying microtonal banana, they created diversion after diversion, hiding waypoints for songs deep within riffs and patterns. Butterfly 3000 reverses the script by offering a 44-minute sequel, written mostly in a major key, and created with the intention of being heard as a continuous piece. But the big curve here goes beyond structure and form: album number 18 was recorded in the band’s homes during the pandemic, and swaps psych-rock blitzes for an intricately woven sprawl of synth lineup. and MIDI sequences. What their Reddit fans call the Gizzverse now allows for serious restraint.
The band’s deep love for ’70s rock titans like Yes and Hawkwind has never stopped innovating. Butterfly 3000 filters a new range of influences and is the net result of sharing simple ideas, mostly modular synth loops in the lockdown. Opener Yours marries drummer Michael Cavanaghs with silky arpeggios, reminiscent of Ashra or Trans Am at their most zoned. But the centerpiece is Interior People, with its bubbling synths and Neu sound! worship. It is the king closest to the gizzard who has reinvented the kosmische in his image. Mackenzie’s acoustic phrases here, and on the likes of Shanghai, make the absence of an electric guitar oddly mundane.
Mackenzies’ lyrical themes oscillated between scenes of cyborgs, weathered beasts, and necromancers marrying the living dead. At Butterfly 3000, he reduces the batshit and looks inward to focus on the dreams and the Transfiguration. By mirroring the fragmentary nature of sleep with songs that mention subconscious flares and falling upward through clouds of glue, the leader becomes eerily relatable. Black Hot Soup suggests that infinity tasting cannot happen in the land of the living and on Blue Morpho, Mackenzie summons an outstretched hand calling out his name. But his Dreams where his disdain for waking life is most lucid. Above twisted melodies, his chorus (I only want to wake up in my dream / I only feel alive in a daze) exudes the heavy-eyed energy of the album.
As Butterfly 3000 suddenly comes to a halt, the microtonal magic of King Gizzards recent double album, KG / LW, may as well be a mirage. Butterfly 3000 lands as a conceptual ending point and makes groups more elaborate and relentless career highs a little more emphatic. Above all, it’s a reminder that King Gizzard usually peaks when he wanders far beyond a well-marked path. The coming of their most concise and carefree release really couldn’t have been better timed.
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