5/4 KUMD Album Review: Hiatus Kaiyote

May 4, 2015

Hiatus Kaiyote, Choose Your Weapon

You’re having the worst day.  Scratch that.  The worst week.  Everything’s piling up quicker than you could have imagined and the end seems nowhere in sight.  You dwell on this stress as you’re walking to work, mopey in attitude and outlook.  Suddenly, you see something odd pass you by.  It’s a horse on a beach ball.  Not a toy, but a real live horse.  It’s standing upright and moving its hooves intricately over the beach ball—staying perfectly balanced.  The horse slows the roll of his hooves to angle himself right in front of you.  He then let’s out a mighty whinny.  

“James Baxter!” he says and repeats himself, “James Baxter!”

You’re caught between running in fear or audibly exclaiming WTF, but instead you just start to smile.  For whatever reason, seeing a horse balancing perfectly on a beach ball was just the right amount of positivity (and silliness) to get you through the day, the week even.  The horse senses the change in your demeanor and proceeds to roll away on his beach ball, his mission accomplished.

You ask a person nearby, “Who was that?” and they respond, “Oh, that’s James Baxter. He just travels around on his beach ball, making people happy.”

Well done James Baxter, well done. Hiatus Kaiyote is a recent add to The Basement’s library and is the only album to thank an Adventure Time character in the liner notes.  The character is, of course, James Baxter the beach-ball maneuvering horse, and if he makes you happy, so will Choose Your Weapon, the latest from Hiatus Kaiyote.

Hiatus Kaiyote (HK) is a four-piece, neo-soul group based out of Melbourne, Australia.  They describe their genre as “Multi-dimensional, polyrhythmic, gangster sh—;” I probably could have led with that, but I really wanted to talk about a horse on a beach ball.

While not a humorous record, Choose Your Weapon has a certain degree of easygoingness attached to it. Elements of jazz, lounge, electronica, and bebop are flirted with across its 18 tracks.  It’s kind of like if Flying Lotus had a female singer on every track, anchoring the album to a theme instead of going full bebop, spaz-jazz.

Not to say this album doesn’t experiment, quite contrary actually.  “By Fire” and “Molasses” are wavy, electro-jazz driven jams that seem to be partially improvisational due to their long runtimes, but effortless in execution.  

Lead singer Nai Palm lends a warm, smooth vocal delivery to support the chill vibes.  Her voice has an Amy Winehouse or Lauryn Hill feel (just without the New York grit), and it floats seamlessly across Choose Your Weapon’s 18 tracks.

Other standouts include “Laputa” and “Breathing Underwater,” the former for highlighting Palm’s over the songs 2 minute runtime, whereas “Breathing Underwater” is a keys driven affair that dabbles in dynamic builds in instrumentation and vocals.  While the entirety of the album is primarily wavy electronica, HK ends fittingly on a lounge number, “Building a Ladder,” capturing the essence of Palm’s vocals with jazzy piano and backing drums.  

Choose Your Weapon bills itself as the perfect album for the summer.  It’s lighthearted, but intense when it needs to be.  It’s jazzy but well balanced, and its wavy vibes find comfort in both beach settings and couch-chilling.  Essentially, HK will bring a relaxed smile to your face and add some positivity to your day- like a horse balancing on a beach ball. 

RIYL | Amy Winehouse, Flying Lotus, BBNG, Madlib
Tracks | Laputa, By Fire, Molasses, Breathing Underwater