Choose Your Weapon by Melbourne band, Hiatus Kaiyote, is an album that I have been pining to hear for months, months and months. Since hearing their By Fire EP and seeing them play a few three or five times between November of last year and now, it is safe to say that now I am content with life again.
First up, the title track, “Choose Your Weapon” sets up a futuristic world that seems to exist in some sort of galactic space, which occurs in some sort of flux, in some sort of nature within some sort of utopia. The robotic voice commands us to “choose your weapon” and you automatically choose love.
Known for their polyrhythmic beats, crossed with afrobeat jives, crossed with acid-jazz all layered with gospel choirs, Choose Your Weapon is an output that solidifies this identity all the more so.
Scattered beats and scattered keys lead to “Shaolin Monk Motherfunk”. This is a rather old Hiatus track made that is engineered to it’s completeness on this album. Hearing it live many times, one can only help but wonder what a recorded version of the track would sound like. The album version perfectly captures all of the live energy- that which is limitlessly progressive. It plays like a fateful improvisation through its three movements, arpeggiators all the while running wild.
As always, Nai Palm’s vocals are key to Hiatus’ sound. Although each member brilliantly brings their own unique talent to the table, it is her Lauryn Hill-like crusted yet soothing vocal inflections that create an all-encompassing, trustful and peaceful atmosphere.
One of the standouts of this eighteen-track effort is “Breathing Underwater”. This is a song that starts of like a Nicolas Jaar 4AM DJ set where we are feeling all of the love and we are feeling all of the need to transcend to a state of sleep. Slowly, this track builds up to a symphonic jazz explosion and we are met with Palm, her choir and Hiatus’ wall of sound. This wall, though individual and chaotic sounding, is one that merely shows the deep intent of each musician in the band. The intent? To play what you feel from what others feel, to make others feel. This is true love.
A notable sound is drawn from Choose Your Weapon and it is one that leans more toward 90s alternative RnB. This comes from the vocal arrangements where Palm seems to pour her heart out over chromatic licks and a forceful choir. In particular, the beautifully arranged track “Fingerprints” seems to be a throwback to D’Angelo and Erykah Badu. How many genres can one album reflect?
At times, Choose Your Weapon can be tiring. There seems to be a lot going on and when you think you have relaxed, you are met with a piano break and the songs suddenly move from honey-dipped slow jams to distorted nu-fusion jazz. This is coupled with Palm’s inflections that, although characterise Hiatus’ sound, can sometimes make the album hard to get through due to their placement almost everywhere.
Perhaps this is what they wanted? Music is meant to challenge and is meant to make us hear new things. Maybe this is what can tires us- The fact that this album makes us thinks because we are literally hearing things that have never been attempted before.
Choose Your Weapon is not just an album; it is a movement. It is an explanation of music from musicians that are in tune with the way that melodies, beats and chord progressions manifest and flow through the cosmos of life and humanity to create art. Hiatus Kaiyote are the vessel that deliver this and there is no better choice, as far as I am concerned, and there is no other outfit that could create such an inspirational, heart-warming and magical sound.
Choose Your Weapon is a monument to Australian music and the landscapes that inspire us. If it were not for Hiatus Kaiyote, these sounds would never be.
Hometown: Melbourne, Australia.
Latest release: Choose Your Weapon, out May 2015.
Sounds like: Thundercat, Taylor McFerrin, D’Angelo.
Say what? Hiatus Kaiyote recording their ground-breaking debut album, Tawk Tomahawk after being together for only six months.
Paws and pineapples,