Review Summary: The future is going to be alright.
Truly. Everything is going to be fine. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel: it glows in an inclusive incandescence that seems to beg for our attention. Open the windows, drink in the sun, and bask in the color of our world.
This kind of naturalism, this optimism, this unrelenting positivity embodies King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s latest release: Butterfly 3000. At this point, no one knows what to expect of these literal mad lads. Thrash metal? Sure. Jazz? You’d better believe it. How about a MIDI-drenched Neo-Psych odyssey？
Bingo. Butterfly 3000 is a difficult album to sum up in a single sentence: but that’s a fair start. This is more than a gimmick of the month, however. Its sound is enveloping and its relaxed atmosphere belies the clever architecture behind this warm summertime squall of an album.
Simply put, this is King Gizzard’s most cohesive work since 2016’s Nonagon Infinity. In terms of production and sonic makeup, Butterfly 3000 sounds unlike any other King Gizzard release – least of all Nonagon Infinity. But compositionally, it’s a showcase of the now-veteran indie outfit’s greatest strengths: their ability to latch onto playful psychedelic grooves and pile layer upon layer of instrumental riffage and iteration onto the mix until the listener finds themselves in joyous flow state of kaleidoscopic color.
Of course, this approach isn’t unique to King Gizzard: you can find much of the same in Pond, Tame Impala, or Dungen. But on Butterfly 3000, like Nonagon Infinity, King Gizzard reaches further and stretches farther by weaving these psychedelic canvases into larger, more ambitious, long form soundscapes. To the extent that the album is really at its best when listened to in a single sitting. The meticulous construction of these compositions, the subtle builds, blooming crescendos, and clever callbacks at play here are more akin a Fishmans, Animal Collective, or CAN record, than any modern psych-pop band.
It’s a fantastic synthesis: the driving Krautrock back beat lends a sense of momentum to the blissed out psychedelic soundscapes, which are themselves packed full of twinkling keys, twisting strings, and addictive micro-hooks. The kind of compositional adornments that you simply couldn’t find in more ‘track-focused’ King Gizzard release, like Oddments or KG/LW. In the beat, they wisely favor a simple 4/4-time signature over their standard 7/4 tinkering. This gives their bright, polished MIDI-flavored instrumentals plenty of room to breathe & shine in the forefront: blossoming into crisscrossing tapestries of psych-pop bliss peppered with every sly quirk and quip you’d expect from Australia’s arbiters of modern psych.
There is also a marked improvement in the vocals at play on this record. While they’ve long since proven their ability to be masterful storytellers, vocal delivery and singing quality were always afterthoughts in the King Gizzard canon. Odd for a band with effectively three different singers. As wild as their jams can get, the band’s vocals always struggled to find their ‘place’ in their compositions – outside of periodic ‘WOOH!’s. Here, the band seems to have finally found the proper place in their production for their vocals to shine. By counter-balancing Stu & Ambrose’s rough, breathy vocals with slickly polished MIDI flourishes and swells, their richly layered croons and swoons sound sweeter and more sweeping than ever before.
Butterfly 3000 shouldn’t be regarded as another madcap experiment by the boys from Melbourne, nor a flash-in-the-pan stroke of genius. No, it should be understood as a deftly crafted, carefully considered demonstration of the veteran band’s greatest strengths and most colorful influences. Only here, it is framed with more polish and confidence than ever before. There’s an enduring optimism to the sound of Butterfly 3000 that simply couldn’t be captured via the harsh guitar distortion or fuzzy vocal delivery that typified their early releases.
No. This is a cool draught on a hot summer day. A slick serotonin sunbeam shining directly into your mind’s eye. Drink it in. Be swept away. Everything is going to be alright.