King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – L.W.
Released February 26th, 2021 by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Seemingly decades ago, Australian experimental-psych band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard started off their five-album run of 2017 by releasing a weird little rock ‘n’ roll album called Flying Microtonal Banana. The subtitle of that album was “Explorations into Microtonal Tuning, Vol. One” and it lived up to its name. A recent article in The Pitch talked about decolonization of music software and how Eurocentric it is that the default setting in most DAWs is 4/4 beat with equal temperment tuning; most of the world’s musical traditions, however, explore microtones – the notes that fall between standard piano keys. In order to decolonize music software, then, we need ways of exploring microtones as easily as we utilize equal temperment piano tuning. Microtonality is a major feature of all sorts of music in the most populated parts of the globe, so much so that when a band from a settler state like Gizzard adopt it for the purposes of ‘exploration’ it’s hard to say it’s cultural appropriation because it’s really just tapping into the greater human cultural stream. At any rate, that record was eventually followed up with a second volume near the end of 2020. K.W., subtitled Explorations in Microtonal Tuning, Vol. 2, continued the band’s implementation of mircotonal instrumental passages into their constantly-shifting psych-jazz soundscapes. L.W. is the third volume in this exploration, and probably not the last.
Flying Microtonal Banana leaned a little too heavily on the initial results of that exploration; I once described it to a friend as “an album that takes the bagpipe solo from AC/DC’s “It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Want To Rock and Roll” as an organizing metaphor. K.G. feels almost hesitant, as though the band had spent some time on the exploration but the first year of the plague had given them anxiety for some reason. L.W. is the strongest of the three; this time the band can merge the microtonal passages into both the furious funk-jazz work they put out on Sketches of Brunswick East and Polygondwanaland records, as well as (especially on the scorching closer “K.G.L.W.”) the near-metal artillery of Murder of the Universe and Infest The Rat’s Nest. Having gotten it right, they’ll probably move back to something else; it’s been a while since they’ve done something surfy, maybe that’s on the docket. Either way they’ve already put out one of the best albums of this admittedly young and yet already exceedingly long year.