Monday 25 May 2015

Review of 'Choose Your Weapon' by Hiatus Kaiyote

On the odd occasion when I’m feeling classy, I’ll kick back with some brie, crackers and red wine and listen to some soul music. Hiatus Kiayote are my latest and greatest find – a Melbourne neo-soul group with a frontwoman villainously named Nai Palm (pronounced ‘napalm’). From a glance you’d think they were some crazy white brutal hardcore band, but their sound couldn’t be more opposite.

I first stumbled upon them a couple weeks ago after hearing an old hit of theirs titled ‘Nakamarra’. The husky vocals and pillowy chord progressions transported me to a happy, summery place of peace and love and daisy chains.

I expected the same husky vocals and pillowy chord progressions from this album and without a shadow of a doubt I got this. Hiatus Kaiyote know all the sweet notes to hit to make you feel warm inside. However, it became immediately clear that the vibe wasn’t the same. The reason behind this became clear after repeat listens – Hiatus Kaiyote have lost their smoothness.

They’ve developed ants in their pants, losing their ability to sit still, crafting songs that refuse to settle into a groove. There are no straightforward, easy-flowing numbers like ‘Nakamarra’ on Choose Your Weapon. The record opens with ten minutes of jazzy noodling, disguised as three songs. After this, the music becomes a little more structured and digestable, but there’s still a lot of melodic fidgeting and no real hooks or solid riffs or rhythms to serve as a payoff.

Too much noodles

That said, buried beneath the progginess are some beautiful moments that are worthy of praise. ‘Swamp Thing’ has a muddy, driving bassline that aptly suits it’s title. ‘Prince Minikid’ has a dreamy instrumental that Flying Lotus would be jealous of. Then there’s my favourite track, ‘Atari’, one of the most energetic tracks here – sporting an upbeat chorus of sorts and some fun 8-bit synths.

All these moments feel like creative strokes of genius that could have paid off if Hiatus Kaiyote didn’t have such a short attention span. Meandering off every time a good idea pops up, the album feels like a constant tease. Those with more tolerance for a good noodle will enjoy it.