In 2013, Giorgio Moroder sat down to give Daft Punk some advice. “Once you free your mind about a concept of harmony and of music being correct, you can do whatever you want,” he monologues on “Giorgio by Moroder.” Consider King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard enlightened: They’ve abided by that method for their entire career, yielding microtonal trilogies, thrash metal climate criticism, and occult-themed hip-hop. If you’ve ever wondered Have King Gizzard made a song like this?, chances are they have.
Inspired by Moroder’s free-spirited approach, the Australian sextet presents The Silver Cord, a synth-based improvisational odyssey that retells ancient mythologies. In an echo of the extended remixes Moroder created for stars like Donna Summer and Blondie, the album appears in two forms, one that runs about 30 minutes and the other stretched as thin as possible into 90 minutes. Skeptics might ask why; the band would probably answer, “Why not?” Even 25 albums in, it’s one of their wackiest and most uninhibited records to date.
The 30-minute mix is clearly the more approachable. Twinkling opener “Theia” might trick you into believing The Silver Cord resembles Butterfly 3000, the mid-pandemic Gizz album that sought to escape into a world of lush synth loops. Closer inspection reveals the new album is more like an electrified sibling of Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava, whose mellow, free-flowing songs emerged from open-ended improvisational jam sessions. Though the band has traded guitars, drums, and bass for Rolands, Junos, and Moogs, you can hear familiar techniques, like Michael Cavanagh’s breakneck synth drum fills on “Chang’e” and Stu Mackenzie’s throaty growls on “Gilgamesh.”
The extended mix is where the band really runs wild, creating elaborate imaginings of mythological worlds. It feels most organic on the brighter tracks, like the chameleonic “Theia” (now pushed to 20 minutes), the head-bobbing “Set,” and the celestial “Chang’e.” Named for the Chinese deity who escaped to the moon, “Chang’e” is dreamy and invigorating, with synths that oscillate like waves. In the second half, the tempo rises and the synths pitch up, rocketing to the exosphere; then just when the song threatens to burst, it opens onto a new expanse, as if landing on the lunar surface. The brooding 11-minute version of “Gilgamesh,” on the other hand, drags on with little purpose except to challenge your attention span, and the chants of “Gila! Gila!” feel out of place amid the digital pulses.
The band takes another cue from Moroder with the metallic groove of “Set,” which picks up with a stuttering beat mimicking a turntable scrub. Rapping like a fourth Beastie Boy, Ambrose Kenny-Smith riffs on the Egyptian god of war and chaos with the psilocybin-infused lyricism Gizzard fans have come to expect: “Lucifer inverted/Slender usurper/Piece of work/Struggling stranglehold akin to poison and going for broke.” Certain King Gizzard albums would make welcome trip companions, while others you’d fervently hope to avoid. The Silver Cord lands right in the middle: The band’s retellings of these deities’ stories can be graceful (“Theia,” “Chang’e”) and other times so overwhelming they induce paranoia (“Swan Song,” “Extinction”).
The Silver Cord won’t convince every listener to join King Gizzard’s Phish-like fandom, but it stands out as one of their most playful records in recent years. And compared to some past gimmicks—like an album intended to be played ad infinitum—offering 30- and 90-minute options is practically fan service. Thirteen years into their career, and the band’s stamina is endless. They’ve traversed ancient Mesopotamia to outer space and it still feels like they’re searching for new terrain.
All products featured on Pitchfork are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.