Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon (2015)

Choose Your Weapon (Hiatus Kaiyote)

The four-piece Melbourne based quartet Hiatus Kaiyote delivers undoubtedly their most ambitious and delicious body of work to date with Choose Your Weapon kicking and screaming its way onto the scene earlier this month. This 70-minute cathartic sonic experience will knock your lil’ socks off, shaking up the entire future-soul genre with its experimentation of instrumentation, rhythm and influences. I couldn’t have said it better than the band members themselves; this truly is some “Multi-Dimensional, Polyrhythmic Gangster Shit”. 

The title track kicks us off with a fanfare reminiscent of the THX theme which transitions to a calming psychedelic soundscape. Overlaid robotic repetitions of “choose your weapon” and airy vocal riffs epitomise the album’s wonderful cluster-jam of sounds; frequent juxtapositions that always work in perfect harmony, with funky keyboard grooves and jarred rhythm patterns smoothly transitioning into the next track.

Shaolin Monk Motherfunk fuses Afrofuturist and oriental aesthetics in its introduction, with bass-line beats, jungle soundscapes, and what appears to be mimicry of the traditional Chinese Guzheng. When the drum-kit kicks in, the familiar swinging jazz structure follows suit. Nai Palm’s vocal gymnastics begin, perfectly complimented by rim-clicks and high-hat playing tag. Latin influenced percussive rhythms slide their way into the mix about mid-track and we seem to come full circle with the familiar opening tribal x oriental sound reappearing towards the back end of the track. Grungy hip-hop synths and snares aid the transition back into jazz swing.

Synths and staccato vocals reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald in Laputa are yet another faultless fusion of elements and influences. Vocal harmonies are simple in numbers yet complex in structure, and with a sprinkling of jazz scat, you can’t go wrong with this indie little track which manages to transport you to that very island in Gulliver’s Travels with that Hayao Miyazaki flavour.

The soundscape interlude that is Creations Part One takes us out of the jungle, and we end up somewhere along the coast. As Borderline With My Atoms crackles through, I can’t help but think of Destiny’s Child’s earlier work — The Writing’s On the Wall perhaps — with elevating harmonies and lazy soul sensuality. The track begins to build and build with crescendoing riff-filled vocals but it crouches back into hiding before ever reaching the perfect climax; frustratingly addictive to say the least. The track manages to maintain its smooth groove while continually experimenting with rhythm.

Breathing Underwater keeps to the DC theme with layered, powerful yet effortless vocal harmonies. The complex rhythm transitions coupled with synth-riffs create peaks and troughs that keep us on our toes. The key-change is one of my favourite parts of the entire album with little introduction needed for ultimate impact.

The oriental theme and Guzheng sound makes a brief comeback in the staccato heavy track Cicada with various percussive instruments mimicking the insect of the same name. Swamp Thing’s opening is grungy rock and roll and Simon Marvin’s keyboard prowess is in full flight during this funky little number. Chromatic choral builds give off a Labyrinth x Rocky Horror vibe and the piano outro gets us back into the jazz groove just in time for the next track.

Fingerprints is sexy and simple. Blue-eyed soul sensuality is complemented with horn synths to give it that futuristic flavour. This vibe continues through to the next track. Jekyll’s gorgeous jazz piano intro gets funky then Latin influences from earlier on in the album make a comeback. Similar to earlier tracks, its smooth yet experimental rhythm changes dotted throughout will keep you on your feet.

Prince Minikid contains some of the most beautiful chord progressions of the album and will leave you thinking you’re floating through intergalactic space. At one point, the cimbalom — or an instrument of a similar effect — makes an appearance, giving the track a Godfather-esque vibe of menacing proportions.

Atari is conceptually the best song of the album. At around 1:10, the double-time rhythm will leave your head spinning. Synth riffs create the perfect 8-bit atmosphere. A heavy bass line at around the 4-minute mark glitches the track and is yet another example of well-executed juxtaposition of sound textures within this album.

By Fire’s epic intro experiments with the placement of the beat then a choral build leads us into the funk. These guys can’t get enough of their synth-riffs but I’m not complaining; its super duper groovy. And my brain can’t come to grips with the time signature when they keep switching it around but again, not complaining. Don’t think; just let it wash over you.

Creations Part Two is yet another beautiful and celestial interlude which transitions perfectly into the next track. The strings of The Lung are achingly gorgeous and accentuate Nai Palm’s mesmerising melismata. The guitar and piano create an acoustic vibe and varying placement of the rhythm will have you floating on cloud 9.

Only Time All the Time: Making Friends with Studio Owl is a nifty little interlude track leaving you wishing it was full-length. The keyboard intro of Molasses will have you thinking you’re listening to a Whitney Houston track – sickly sweet bubble-gum pop vibes throughout with just a dashing of funk keep to the album’s overall theme.

Building a Ladder is the final tune of the epic 18-track album. This track truly highlights Nai Palm’s vocal strength as she hits notes with sweetness, then aggression. It’s a beautiful blend of all of my favourite genres; rhythm and blues, doo-wop pop, soul, and funk. The keyboard, percussion and groovy bass are underscored very well, with props to Perrin Moss, Simon Mavin and Paul Bender for not overpowering the vocal line and allowing it to soar. The outro’s half-time rhythms guide us back down to earth after the musical whirlwind adventure we’d been taken on over the past hour or so.

This punchy concoction of soundscapes, genres, techniques and vibes continues to build off the breakthrough experimental sounds of their first album Tawk Tomahawk while steering clear from over-complication, making it easy to listen to. Their upcoming tour is bound to create waves and here’s hoping for a piece of the action when they return back home.

Aleks

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