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Genres are weird. Of course having broad categories like jazz, rock, blues, or hip-hop helps potential listeners understand what they are in for and gives them a rough idea of the artist’s sound, but sometimes things can go too far. Does slapping label upon label on a particular piece of music benefit it or does it just push the artist into a corner? Of course an “Experimental Baroque Dreamfunk oriented Field-Glitch/Post-Vaporwave” quartet sounds awesome, but adding endless prefixes and suffixes to a pre-existing genre doesn’t really move music forward in the way one might expect. That’s why I propose a new system for hard to classify acts: a single sentence describing how that type of music would come to exist. Using this new system, we can call Hiatus Kaiyote what would happen if a group of aliens from a distant galaxy visited earth and were so inspired by our culture and music that upon returning home played lounge music on the paisley carpeted stage at their local intergalactic bar and grill. Obviously I am being facetious but my point still stands. Trying to define the sound of such progressive music will only be met with adjective overload. They tend to call themselves “Future-Soul” and their website tite is “Multi-Dimensional, Polyrhythmic Gangster Shit” (which is actually kind of perfect) so I’ll just leave it at that.
Hiatus Kaiyote’s first record, Tawk Tomahawk, built some buzz for the Australian four-piece with strong singles including “Nakamarra,” which they performed on Jay Leno and was later nominated for a grammy. An intoxicatingly smooth album, Tawk Tomahawk left fans eagerly awaiting the band’s sophomore effort, and Hiatus surely does not disappoint. Clocking in at around 70 minutes, Choose Your Weapon is everything their debut was and more, better production, more atmosphere, and most importantly, more substance.
After a short beginning interlude, when the 2nd track and lead single, “Shaolin Monk Motherfunk” begins, the listener knows they are in for a treat. Ascending keyboard arpeggios, oriental-influenced guitar riffs, and unidentifiable percussion give way to walking bass and plinking piano, fronted by Nai Palm’s distinct voice, which is a highlight of the band’s sound. With more vocal gymnastics than Gabby Douglas, it gives an expressive flavor that never gets old. Three tracks later, the funky earworm “Borderline with My Atoms” makes you want to dance, even in the least opportune times (take my word on this one). Immediately following, “Breathing Underwater” has a dense and layered sound with an attention grabbing stop-start rhythm. The formula is turned upside-down on the campy “Swamp Thing.” Distorted electric guitar and operatic vocals make for an almost cinematic experience that reminds one of an 80’s B-grade monster movie in the best kind of way. Other track highlights include “Jekyll,” “Prince Minikid,” “Atari,” “By Fire,” “The Lung,” “Molasses,” and “Building a Ladder”
The album’s structure also deserves mention. The transitions between songs are smooth and flow perfectly, mostly due to almost half of the songs being interludes. Each major track is like a checkpoint, with the shorter instrumental pieces giving some breathing room in between each one, keeping the album from feeling stale. Songs like the noisy, polyrhythmic “Cicada” allow the band to show off a more experimental side without compromising the atmosphere or flow, which is something more groups should take the time to do.
A fun, progressive, and thoroughly enjoyable album, Choose Your Weapon is an absolute gem. Hiatus Kaiyote have put together a futuristic must-listen that will no doubt be a favorite for any fan of eclectic music.