Mar 19, 2021 | LIFE | By Ryan Freedman | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian
Experimental music can be a pain to listen to. Most people don’t want to devote the effort necessary to enjoy the often grating aspects of noise music like Merzbow or sit through the 15 minutes of buildup to a post-rock song’s culmination.
Even as a die-hard supporter of experimentation in music, it takes me a while to wrap my head around new discoveries in the genre.
The ethos of experimental music is often much more accessible than some of the music the genre contains. People like music that’s groovy, captivating, and most of all, not a chore to listen to.
With the occasional exception, it is for this reason that experimental bands remain outside the limelight, often by choice. Accessibility is not a priority to these groups, and that’s all right. Music’s artistic side doesn’t require one to sell out shows or gain notoriety beyond a cult following. The financial side, however, is often responsible for bringing about these reality checks.
Creating accessibility is, therefore, one of the most challenging aspects of making nontraditional music. Few bands have mastered this process better than Australia’s six-piece rock collective King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
Once releasing five full studio albums in the span of a single year, the band continues to push into new genres and new sonic territories. There’s something for everyone in the band’s “Gizzverse,” from Lord-of-the-Rings-inspired mythology for fans of fantasy, to the rockabilly “Fishing for Fishies” (2018), to the jazz-rock of 2017’s “Polygondwanaland.” The band has even been known to break out microtonal guitars for some of their songs, utilizing notes “in between” traditional Western scales.
Now you may be wondering how I can justify going on about the accessibility of such a band, but the beauty of King Gizz is how they utilize all of their wild concepts. Instead of taking the classic progressive rock or shrill Frank Zappa approach to their microtonal music, they manage to pull off a bluesy feel on “Flying Microtonal Banana” (also from their 2017 pack of releases).
The song “Rattlesnake” is a particularly good example of this foray into psychedelia with microtones. They do have their odd song that requires some thought and effort to really enjoy, but the brave soul or the metalhead will appreciate 2019’s “Infest the Rat’s Nest,” a thrash metal opera about the catastrophic future of a world scarred by climate change.
Every member of the band is a creative powerhouse, with a work ethic unlike any other in music. Frontman Stu Mackenzie also managed the band, and one of two drummers Eric Moore left this year to manage the band’s label. This label, Flightless Records, is the leader in the Australian experimental rock scene, hosting up-and-coming acts like The Murlocs and Leah Senior, with a range from noise rock to folk in their catalog.
All in all, King Gizz’s weird and wacky world is one that may surprise you, with much more easily explored music and a wide catalog that can’t be beat for the new adventurer. The band is music for the sake of music, and they’ve even released several of their albums for free download and pressing to vinyl.
If you’re looking for a starting place, “Fishing for Fishies” is a nice example of the band’s vibe in a style that anyone can appreciate. The band’s latest EPs, the paired “K.G.” (2020) and “L.W.” (2021), are a good way to feel the band’s microtonal fuzz and hear their characteristic descending vocal lines.
“Nonagon Infinity”never gets old, which is nice since the album functions as an infinite loop. I couldn’t name a better band to start with if you’re interested and intimidated by experimental music. It’s a ride, but one well worth taking.