If you’ve been buckled into the 5-album ride that King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have been taking us on this year, you probably have a lot of thoughts and feelings about Polygondwanaland, the fourth record in the series, which was released on Friday in one of the most unusual ways possible (so do we). Their close-to-complete goal of releasing 5 full-length albums this year is an astonishing feat in and of itself, but it seems the Australian psych rockers have made it a point to add a twist to each one. This time around, it’s a twist that the music industry hasn’t really seen before. In a sudden release that had crashed King Gizzard’s website within a few hours, the band announced that the new album would be 100% free and in the public domain, and that they wouldn’t be selling it in any form. Encouraging the fans to make bootlegs, they’ve supplied download links for everything from MP3s to Jason Galea’s album art to the actual CD and vinyl masters, stating, “Ever wanted to start your own record label? GO for it! Employ your mates, press wax, pack boxes. We do not own this record. You do. Go forth, share, enjoy.”
It’s still early to see the full outcome of such an open-ended release, but the possibilities – particularly with King Gizzard’s obsessed base of fans – are already looking wild, and making some collectors salivate. On the same day they put out their (our) new album, several labels announced they would be producing their own vinyl copies, including ATO Records, Blood Music, and Greenway Records. By that point, fans were already starting to crowdsource funding for their own custom pressings. On the strength of the music – which is, yet again, another mind-boggling, narrative trip infused with the boys’ deft shredding and lawless rhythm – it’s likely the case that we’ll be stumbling upon tie-dye wax, odd-looking pressings, and homemade packaging for years to come. Even for jet-black, 180-gram purists, it’s a somewhat intoxicating thought.
“I don’t know what people are gonna do, or if people have thought through that part yet,” frontman Stu Mackenzie told NME last week (who dubbed Polygondwanaland “the world’s first release-your-own album”). “Good luck to them,” he said. “I hope it turns into a creative thing. My main hope was that it would help form some things… I mean, the whole world’s probably gonna end soon anyway. But it’s nice to connect with people, and I hope this release can do that.” While their site offers some light advice with each of the files provided for download, it’s mostly a free-for-all – and the note at the end of the page provides an amusing glimpse into the realities of making physical media. “P.s. If u wanna make cassettes I don’t really know what you would do. Be creative. We did it once but it sounded really shit. Maybe try the WAVs idano. bye bye.”
When it comes to spoiling a fan base, offering up all the sacred pieces that make up a record to the public domain, entirely for free, would seem like the ultimate gesture. But remarkably, the music seems like a gift in its own right to those who’ve been listening carefully. Polygondwanaland marks the first formal release of “Crumbling Castle,” an elusive demo song that has popped up in live shows over the years, often prompting rumors and discussion among their longtime fans – who surely find the fact that it’s the very first track to be a lavish treat. And for all those who’ve enjoyed King Gizzard’s recent streak of new material, the references to previous records are a recurring thrill on Polygondwanaland. “The Castle in the Air” sees the return of Leah Senior’s spooky, spoken-word narration from Murder of the Universe, while the good-vibey, existential meanderings of “Inner Cell” hearken back to Sketches of Brunswick East. By the end of the record, it’s the mind-altering patterns of “The Fourth Color” that are yanking us all the way back into the Nonagon. And while it’s tempting to follow suit – turn this into a make-your-own album review, and leave it completely up to you to decide if it rocks – there’s really no way to hold back the excitement here. Polygondwanaland is freaking sick, and we can’t wait to see what you’ll do with it.
Article: Olivia Isenhart