Album Review: Choose Your Weapon by Hiatus Kaiyote
Excellent, Based on 5 Critics
HipHopDX - 90 Based on rating 4.5/5
While contemporary American pop spent too much time focused on one “Fancy” rapper making her home stateside from Mullumbimby, New South Wales one particular group were slowly gaining ground 1020 miles south in Melbourne. By the time many caught up to future-soul quartet Hiatus Kaiyote, their 2012 breakout single “Nakamarra” earned a Grammy nomination for its Q-Tip assisted remix two years later. This essentially made them the first and only group from the country to even get recognized in a category normally dominated by African Americans.
When Tawk Tomahawk was picked up by Salaam Remi's Flying Buddha, the label added a bonus version of "Nakamarra" -- the album's most direct, traditional song -- with a Q-Tip guest verse. The young Australian avant-R&B quartet needed it more for visibility than for credibility. The move worked, at least with Recording Academy voters, who nominated that version for a 2014 Grammy in the category of Best R&B Performance.
Paul Bender, the bassist with Melbourne’s “future soul” band Hiatus Kaiyote, describes his band’s second album Choose Your Weapon as a “huge, massive, complex puzzle”. He’s not far wrong. Over 18 tracks and 70 minutes, the four-piece touch upon modern jazz, polyrhythmic time structures, labyrinthine explorations of 1970s funk, scat-singing, samba, West African soul, pastoral prog rock in the style of Weather Report and Gentle Giant, sprawling electric fusion and elemental rhythms.
Melbourne, Australia's Hiatus Kaiyote are equal parts exploratory and tuneful when it comes to their unique "future soul" sound. The Grammy-nominated "neo-soul quartet" got some love for debut album Tawk Tomahawk, on which — along with weighty co-signs by names like Q-Tip, Questlove, Prince and Stevie Wonder — the band nailed down the elements of late '90s, early '00s neo-soul: kick snares, electronic organ and bass guitar, in full effect. Those expecting more songs like their past hit "Nakamarra" will root for numbers like the modern-minded soul sound of "Shaolin Monk Motherfunk" or the funked up salvo that is the title track.
Melbourne, Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote describes its sound as “future soul,” which is vague, inert language, but it’s hard to blame the four-piece funk outfit. The band’s music is such a fast-moving, shape-shifting target, reducing it to a pithy genre descriptor is a fool’s errand. With its 2012 debut album Tawk Tomahawk, Hiatus Kaiyote introduced its polyrhythmic, polymorphic sound, which draws equally from neo-soul, ’70s jazz-funk, and Afrofuturist electronica, leaving the band with few peers (like latter-day Little Dragon and Janelle Monae on her weirder, spacier tracks).