The bass guitar releases a mellow tone, the keyboard dreams a few notes, the drums creep in with a tease and a magical voice jazzes up the mood. Hiatus Kaiyote is one of the very few bands nurturing a new form of jazz, funk and soul music known as the neo-soul genre. Their latest album “Choose your weapon” is a prolonged accumulation of sensitive, progressive and bop tracks which cleanse our minds with its wisdom and true rhythm. I first heard of the band on Youtube when one of my close friends made me listen to “Mobius Streak” from the Tawk Tomahawk album. I got hooked on to it owing to its intense energy and groove. Beginning with a flamenco strumming and ending up into an wholesome hummable song, this song gives a shiver of extreme satisfaction. The drummer, Perrin Moss, plays an intricate mix of time signatures while the bassist, Paul Bender, feeds the remaining life to the instrumentation. Nai Palm’s jazzy and lucid voice gives a spiritually sensuous flavour to the composition rendering it a complete experience. Simon Mavin , who plays the synthesizer, touches our ears with simplistic sounds that caress the soul. It demystifies the destination of the song creating a passive curiosity among us.
I watched a video of their performance at the Village Underground and was overwhelmed by the response they get from the whole familia of listeners. All you get to see is a humble group of Australian musicians bringing on the jam like never before. “Malika” begins with a flurry of snare beats and high hat clashes sinking into a beautiful array of jazz chords and vocals. The life they bring to the songs on stage is as appealing as listening to their songs in solitude on a rainy afternoon. Electronic music, these days, is all about high speed dub step remixes flourishing into a dull chorus, apparently called, the ‘bass drop’. Hiatus Kaiyote teaches us how electronic sounds can deeply affect music when used cordially with live instruments like the guitar and jazz drums. A fresh and unhindered voice is all that’s needed in today’s world of music. Unlike the mundane auto tuned songs with heavily processed vocals, Hiatus manages to capture realism with instinctive play on tune and poetry. With guttural sounds and a gleeful play of words, Nai Palm never fails to entertain with her brilliance. Paul Bender plays the bass aptly to portray his skill on jazz scales and discordant melody. It is him who envelopes the song with a constant tapping or slapping of chromatic and jazz notes. A series of coherent tunes exist with Paul exchanging smiles with Nai palm, Simon and Perrin as they perform “Nakamarra” on the stage.
“By fire” and “Borderline with my atoms” are the most intriguing songs from the “Choose Your weapon” album. These songs made me want to study jazz and rhythm with more depth. Mystery and hypnotic melodies govern songs like ”Prince Minikid” and “Breathing Underwater”. Drums are a backbone to music and the softer the drum beats the more effective the conveyance of the song. There can be no domination or suppression in any collaborative music. This is made very much clear in a band like Hiatus Kaiyote. Perrin Moss excels in his pursuit of puzzled encounters with beats and polyrhythms. It lingers on a larger scale in the silence that follows after the song completes its spell. Be it the cymbal crashes, hi-hat shots, snare or bass drum kicks, the simplistic ease of the beat renders space to each and every other aspect of tunes. “By Fire” begins with an emerging chorus and a synthesized set of sounds and beats. The suspense that the first few seconds of the song creates unleashes an usual expectation. Nai Palm sings the next few lines on a totally different scale and wittingly captures the whole gravity of where the song is headed. It is a memorable journey of unexpected expectations where you can celebrate an ethereal thought or emotion. This is what makes the song go on repeat for the coming years. A peculiar keyboard tone from Simon adds so much to the song that you keep craving for that sound to fill up any silence that you face in the coming day. “Laputa” is an impressive blend of ambient sound with crafty lyrics giving it a rap-like feel. “Shaolin Monk Motherfunk” is another joyous number which keeps you gripped with its reggae jumps and beats. The whole ordeal makes you want to shake your head to the groove with a fresh set of notes and tempos.
There is a unique way of phrasing involved in every song making it a constant exercise to anticipate the next line. The words and the rhythm get around each other like siblings, trying to bring in fun and teasing elements.
“Stone a flare cold, undercoat bare , apple over-head swift courage, shoot it down, down” are the lines for the chorus in “The Lung”, another unique track from the Choose Your Weapon album. Each phrasing comes with its own distinct set of timing and execution made perfect by Nai Palm which makes it a trademark and a milestone in the new wave.
“Molasses” from their new album explores new sounds with bell chime elements along with an odd time signature which creates a fresh breeze of sound to the ears. You can sing along with the beautiful lines and feel the beat resonate. It is a song which stays along with the others. Nai Palm likes to experiment with her voice and diction like a fairy. “Atari” relishes the flavours of a tribal song sung in the forest with its dancing rhythms. “It is a song dedicated to vintage game consoles” says Nai Palm in an interview. Maintaining flows in their songs with silences and piano blending with a rushed set of rhythms they create a polyrhythmic anthem for listeners. “Lace Skull” convolutes a beautiful guitar pattern with a set of humming piano notes. We feel the urge to jam with the right set of minds that focus the unfamiliar from the familiar and progressively improvise. It is a perfect ‘hiatus’ to the music scene which has needed a revival of live elements and electronic retro sounds since a long time. Raw textures and innovative experimentation have made this album a treat to the ears. We can call it the music from the “Beat” generation of our time. Give it a listen and go fly into the world of Hiatus Kaiyote.