King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard release their new album Butterfly 3000 via KGLW / Virgin Music Australia. It might be their most fearless leap into the unknown yet: a suite of ten songs that all began life as arpeggiated loops composed on modular synthesisers, before being fashioned into addictive, optimistic and utterly seductive dream-pop by the six-piece. Butterfly 3000 sounds simultaneously like nothing they’ve ever done before, and thoroughly, unmistakably Gizz, down to its climactic neon psych-a-tronic flourish.
The new album follows 17 studio albums, including the recently-released K.G. and L.W. Similar to its two predecessors, Butterfly 3000 was executed in isolation, recorded entirely in the band members’ own homes, their studio and rehearsal space remaining out-of-bounds. Creatively, Stu Mackenzie describes the process of making the album as a “group challenge”. The band adhered to rules which, much like Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, placed them firmly but fruitfully outside of their comfort zones. First and foremost, the band were writing this new material on unfamiliar equipment, like modular synthesizers. “As we’re not very skilled at them and don’t have the deepest knowledge of this stuff, we’d get happy accidents – lots of weird, wrong, broken sounds we flipped and looped and turned into songs.”
The group committed to writing every one of Butterfly 3000’s songs in major key, marking a profound shift in modus operandi. “We were trying to make upbeat dance music, in our own way, and we’d never gone there before,” Mackenzie says. Butterfly 3000 also abandoned another Gizzard method, what Mackenzie describes as “throwing a lot of shit at the wall and finding that magic take, or building something with 20 tracks of guitar overdub”. Instead, the new album was a process of refinement, paring tracks back to their elements and foregrounding the melodies. It’s the most considered album Gizz has ever made.
The product of many nights spent sweating over synthesisers and sequencers, looping and layering weird noises in the dark and annoying their neighbours into the wee small hours, Mackenzie describes Butterfly 3000’s inspired, maverick pop as “weird, odd, off-kilter polymetric arpeggios in strange time signatures, but with proper grooves you can stomp along to. At heart it’s avant garde, but a six-year-old could enjoy it.”
Indeed, while this is an album that thrives on the shock of the new, when familiar elements enter the fray the effect can be dizzyingly thrilling – not least the unmistakably motorik drums of Michael ‘Cavs’ Cavanagh. Thorny knots of prog surface occasionally, but the dominant mode is brilliantly focused and accessible. Butterfly 3000 displays a confidence at odds with its experimental methods, and a succinctness that pays dividends.
The album’s title is – like many Gizzard albums before it – the work of long-time collaborator Jason Galea, who has composed for Butterfly 3000 a mesmerising sleeve that draws inspiration from the Cross-eyed Autostereogram poster phenomena of the 90s, harbouring revelations for those willing to study it long and hard enough. It’s reflective of the album’s themes, which “are dreams and metamorphosis, change and evolution,” Mackenzie explains. “It’s a journey, it’s a fantasy. It’s one of our lightest records, and it’s come out of this really trying time. We were challenging ourselves on this album to make something we’d never done before, which is a major-key, positive, uplifting record.”
Butterfly 3000 is a triumph of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s characteristic extra-terrestrial approach to music, to their oblique strategies, and their refusal to repeat themselves. It’s also testament to a group who – a decade and 18 albums into one of the most remarkable careers – are still able to surprise, still hungry to reinvent their own paradigm, still finding fresh inspiration in infinite possibilities. Long may they hew to their alien instincts.