It was a Sunday morning. It was December.
It was regional Victoria. It was waking up covered in dirt and sweat in a tent.
It was the sound of what I thought was a new-world church sermon (let’s face it, the night before I thought that the lead singer of Primal Scream was Jesus). It was the sound of good people trying to revitalise our weary souls. It was Hiatus Kaiyote at Meredith Music Festival in 2012.
As the soulful guitar chords beamed through the amphitheatre and touched the chewed-up faces of each punter, more and more flocked to this collective to feel some sort of exoneration and cleansing from the night before.
Then, that welcoming, assuring and love-filled voice came through: Nai Palm.
And there is no better way to wake up in this beautiful country, in the glory of Mother Nature than to hear Hiatus Kaiyote for the first time ever. And two years later, with their latest EP By Fire, hearing them still makes me feel all giddy, revitalised and brave inside.
By Fire is a pre-cursor to Hiatus Kaiyote’s sophomore release (Choose Your Weapon– due out March 2015) and presents an exciting taste of what these guys will bring to the Australian music landscape and the challenges that they will create for other artists. This challenge: bring the best of your own thing.
Because this is what By Fire does. It does its own thing and in doing so, it (sorry to get all Kanye on you) breaks glass ceilings, it leads its own pack and it fears nothing.
Right off the bat, with the track “By Fire”, the EP indicates a more developed, concentrated and influenced sound. The analogue synthesiser runs are reminiscent of Thundercat’s Apocalypse (of who Hiatus Kaiyote are huge fans of and have toured with) but still manages to forge its own path as we are slammed into a burst of angelic fire.
All instruments are go as choral voices stream atop layered synthesisers, hard hitting drums and solid bass lines to suddenly break into a jazz-infused, electronic, bounced up yet still relaxing party.
Palm’s voice inflections glide magnificently from the front of the band into an accompaniment at times.
In this first track alone we reach an understanding of Hiatus Kaiyote. These guys not only know all of the intricacies of their instruments, but also push the boundaries of what they, as a collective, can beautifully manifest from the energy of one another.
This is an aspect that is immediately recognisable in the way that, when live, each of the band members brings their own vibe and contributes to the output as an equal and justified member.
Perhaps an aspect that is largely overlooked in most bands, each member of Hiatus Kaiyote (including the sometimes present back-up singers) proves that they are a musician in their own right that adds a special something to the band that would not be present without them there in that moment.
Up next “Laputa” showcases Palm’s strength as an involved storyteller where her articulation of each word breeds its own strength. Her chosen lyrics speak visuals: “Write onto paper, a saga-born, hand-drawn artisan dreamer” and “Mr Catacomb creeper who whispers stone cold”.
As each phrase comes through we hear Palm’s floetry through the careful yet seemingly natural accentuation of each phrase. It’s easy to be impressed.
Lastly, “Molasses” brings it all home. A personal favourite when performed live, the recording still purports as much positive energy through the speakers as being inches from the stage does in the presence of the Nai Palm herself.
In itself “Molasses” emanates an inherent positive vibe from the 90’s RnB girl band harmonising style to the melodic bass line and worldly drum beat that propels the listener into a universe where all is good.
And as Palm tells us that it “might not get any better”, it’s not a negative command but rather a…this is it and make it your best.
But this is Hiatus Kaiyote, at their best so far. As we eagerly await the release of their album next year, we know that it can and will only get better with these guys and so, thank you Hiatus Kaiyote for making our heart beats that little bit stronger in the excitement for what is new, promising and full of light and happiness. So much love for you.
Hometown: Melbourne, Australia
Latest Release: By Fire EP, released December 2nd 2014
Sounds Like: Thundercat, Taylor McFerrin, D’Angelo
Say What?: The first time Nai Palm met one of her heroes, Erykah Badu, Badu came towards her singing “Nakamarra” (a song Palm wrote). Surreal!
Check out the EP sampler here:
Paws and pineapples, Cat.