After a whopping three months since their last album, Australian psych rockers King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard haves released Polygondwanaland, their fourth out of five proposed albums set for release this year. The band, known for their chameleon- like abilityies to change their style with every record, has continued their trend with an exploration into polyrhythmic song writing. This year alone the band has experimented with microtones (notes between the notes in our western scale) on the album Flying Microtonal Banana, spoken word driven metal music in Murder of the Universe, and spaced out jazz rock in the album Sketches of Brunswick East which they collaborated on with the band Mild High Club. With Polygondwanaland, King Gizzard successfully continue their trend of evolving their sound to create a new, musically thematic experience.
The opening track to Polygondwanaland, titled “Crumbling Castle”, is one of the band’s longest and most intricate songs. The ten-minute-long opus weaves its way seamlessly through multiple time and mood changes, finally culminating with the last two minutes repeating the phrase “don’t want to be, a crumbling, crumbling, crumbling castle” over instruments that sound like what happens when you mix garage rock with doom metal.
From this point onward, the album makes a complete 180, settling in a groove of acoustic, rhythmic driven songs that find ways to connect themselves together to create the sensation of one long song. Each song is essentially built off of incredibly tight, intricate, polyrhythmic drum grooves which the band fills in on top of. Polyrhythms are when two or more different time signatures are being played at the same time. If it seems confusing to non-music people, don’t worry – it’s is just as confusing to music people.
However, when listening to the tracks you can still enjoy them whether or not you know what polyrhythms are. The band masterfully weaves catchy hooks and melodies around a tight rhythm section that helps propel even the most subdued songs along to the next part of the story, like “Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet” and “Inner Cell”. The band also does a good job creating exciting crescendos throughout the pieces, in particular the end of “Inner Cell” and the transition from “Searching…” into “The Fourth Color”. While each piece has a similar feeling and mood, the band is able to create subtle nuances for each song that help to give them identity in the thirty-minute suite.
A stand out song from this part is “Loyalty”. Building off of the climactic ending of “Inner Cell”, “Loyalty” opens with a slow, oscillating synth, slowly being built upon before the different synth parts collide, and make way for the song to begin. Synths are a new sound King Gizzard have been playing around with, and this album, and especially this song, showcases their new experimentation extremely well. The rest of the song is a nice blend of catchy melodies that are doubled by both vocals and guitars, pleasant flute fills, and perfectly timed and manipulated distortion, helping to give accents a bit of a harder edge. The song ends in another repetitious ending like “Crumbling Castle”, repeating the line “where’s the loyalty”, and another oscillating synth takes over, providing a bridge to the next song “Horology”. “Loyalty” perfectly encapsulates all the different sounds and styles King Gizzard explore throughout the album.
While “Crumbling Castle” can be seen as a kind of red herring when taken in context of its place and relationship to the album, the suite of songs that follow it are able to keep, if not surpass, the excitement the opening track creates, especially in songs like “Inner Cell”, “Loyalty”, “Searching…”, and “The Fourth Color”. The narrative woven throughout Poly is the strongest and most cohesive the band has created so far, detailing the journey of an unnamed protagonist’s journey to find the fourth color. Backed by a strong narrative and even stronger and intricate song writing, Polygondwanaland is a unique and stand out addition in King Gizzard’s ever expanding and robust discography.