From insignificant acorns sprout staggering oak trees, and it’s one of nature’s many spectacular feats that so much biological information can be stored in that tiny little object, gradually able to develop into these mighty, all-seeing, century-spanning behemoths. Imagine that process, though, sped up considerably. Imagine if you plopped an acorn into a small hole in the soil, patted over the dirt and gave it a light sprinkle of water, and just seconds later strong limbs of bark burst forth, a canopy of golden-green leaves elevating you to see what a hundred-year-old oak sees. Lizard King emanates such grandness, with all the foliage of a vast saga condensed into a seed, ready and waiting to rupture once lent its own sunlight and water – the eager ears of an intrepid music explorer.
Etched assiduously into the trunk are these thick channels, each of them transporting another sliver of sound upwards, converging at points to create varying assemblages – in one crevice find seething and aggressive bullet-speed crashes of bronze, and in another, rested pastels that bask in their own luminescence. The August stagger from trough to trough, treading tracks and then smoothing them over again – ‘Lucid Dreams’ floats into frame with a mist of cymbals, high-pitched guitars and soul-stirring piano, and though loud in itself it falters against the swift barrage of tremolo and sleep-twitch snare that kick-starts ‘Shelter’. Even then, through the lashings there’s a subsidence that lends an overarching character to Lizard King; it really feels as though the music is discovering itself as it progresses, flirting with overzealousness without becoming arrogant. It tests the limits and acts accordingly.
The vocals flitter in almost like birdsong at sunrise, in a manner so adhesive with the unmarred course of nature that their inclusion feels innate – but not so far as to be able to routinely predict. In the title track, they keep the complexities of the rhythms and bold strings from floating away by way of binding them together with blissful falsetto, whilst in ‘Dandelion’ they are the fuel and vigour that elevate rather than ground, working to upgrade a simple square into a six-faced cube. The August’s prudence when it comes to the vocals is a major credit to them – allowing these multidimensional tracks the ability of abandonment, where sung expressions drift in and out as and when necessary, lends such passion to the record’s exploratory poise.
Even further than so eloquently mirroring the often unrivalled artistry of the cosmos’ canvas, The August venture into the abstract, imagined realm. As is evidenced by the stunning artwork, they burrow into colours as though they were tangible, and the instrumentation is the portal we step through to reach this indelible dimension. ‘Clockwork’ascends with grace, bass and electronic weaves, meek as it finds its legs and dogged as it starts to run – ‘Astronomy’too, in the way it patches stutters and snaps with a resolute beat and end-of-tether vocal spillage, rouses the uncharted territories of hypothetical chasms. Lizard King, then, is much more than a staunch oak – its roots are firmly planted in the ground, absorbing all the nutrients so graciously provided by mother nature, but its canopy is the lush doormat to a distant, transcendental serenity.