King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard with Mild High Club - Sketches of Brunswick East Album Review
Sketches of Brunswick East (SOBE) marks the eleventh career album and third album to be released this year by Australian psychedelic rock band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard (KGATLW). With almost no promotion of the record outside of one or two social media posts and a few passing comments in interviews, little was known about the record other than it was “jazzy” before its surprise release on Friday, August 18. However, upon listening to SOBE, it’s clear that KGATLW used the time and resources they could have used promoting the album to create one of their most consistent and unique projects to date.
SOBE has all the staples of KGATLW’s sound: songs are organically built off of tight riffs and melodies, subsequent tracks flow together, and instrumentals build towards psyche-infused movements. Where SOBE breaks away from past KGATLW releases is in a more focused approach on groove and rhythm. While previous KGATLW records such as Quarters! and Flying Microtonal Banana did emphasize these, they often felt as though they served the atmosphere of their tracks rather than the atmosphere serving them.
Just from the titular three part movement, it’s apparent that the bass and drums serve as the guiding force, snaking and weaving through the 13 tracks while the other instrumental parts follow along. It gives their already punchy riffs and melodies a bit more direction without sacrificing the overall psychedelic elements of their sound. They pull the listener into the sonic landscape more easily, rather than simply serving as the top layer to it.
A large part of this changed direction comes from the restrained aspect of Mild High Club’s sound. It not only gives KGATLW a fresh style to experiment with, but challenges them to use fewer resources and compose more unique arrangements. In turn, KGATLW are able to craft a more atmospheric album with a uniting vibe throughout. As much as songs like “D-Day,” “The Book,” and “A Journey to (S)hell” feel like left turns that branch away from the core sound, they never feel like sharp turns and we instead an exciting detour.
The album also benefits from its placement within KGATLW’s discography, as the heavily vocal ladened approached on KGATLW’s previous album Murder of the Universe has been dialed back here. Frontman Stu Mackenzie builds from his style on KGATLW’s two 2015 albums Quarters! and Paper Mâché Dream Balloon, combining the relaxed and reserved singing of the former with the cryptic and at times bizarre lyrics of the later. They help the vocals to have a place within the compositions without having to serve as a melody, allowing for more complex melodies to be given to the instrumentation.
At times, the album does fall short by not diving further into its jazz direction. While KGATLW does the style justice and excellently combines it with their psychedelic sound, their reserved approach to the improvisational sections leaves a little to be desired, though only because the musicianship of the band is close to unparalleled by most other groups in the genre. KGATLW have proven their improvisational chops time and time again on their louder and noisier past releases, and that strength seems to have been slightly underutilized on SOBE.
Besides this reservation, KGATLW have proven yet again why they’re one of, and arguably the most, important rock outfit of the decade. They’ve not only successfully crafted a jazz and psychedelic rock fusion album, but continue to build upon the foundations established by the genre defining artists that came before them. KGATLW are playing the vital role of carrying the torches of these genres that have long been gone from the mainstream. Not only are they introducing them to new generations, but they prove that there’s still a place for them among today’s modern musical landscape.
Chandler Copenheaver is a senior majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Civic and Community Engagement. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.