Australian “future soul” quartet Hiatus Kaiyote have received plenty of praise since releasing their debut album, Tawk Tomahawk, in 2012. Soon after its release it was brought to the attention of producer Salaam Remi, famous for his work with Amy Winehouse and Nas, who decided to make them the first signing to his then new label, Flying Buddha. Tawk Tomahawk was given a worldwide re-release the following year, catching the ear Prince, Pharrell, Erykah Badu, Questlove and Q-Tip, the latter going on to work with them on the Grammy nominated single “Nakamarra”.
Their second album, Choose Your Weapon, arrived in May of last year, further confirming why big names were taking such a keen interest. Although not as widely reviewed as it perhaps should have been, Choose Your Weapon was very highly acclaimed by those who did pick it up. A much more refined and expansive album, it was twice the length of their debut and featured the perfect mix of catchiness and structural complexity, blending together a range of genres and styles including contemporary jazz, R&B, soul, progressive rock, Afrobeat and hip-hop.
Sell out shows all over the world and a second Grammy nomination for Best R&B Performance for the single “Breathing Underwater” followed, with 2016 set to be their busiest year yet. Organised by Band on the Wall as a sort of fundraiser, Hiatus Kaiyote recently played at The Ritz in what was their biggest show in Manchester thus far. Complete with a trio of backing singers, the quartet certainly didn’t waste an opportunity to impress the close to sell out crowd with around one and a half hours of fantastic music.
The shifting time signatures and winding explorations heard on Choose Your Weapon were perfectly executed throughout, with the seamless transitions that take place during “Shaolin Monk Motherfunk” and “Breathing Underwater” being the two finest examples of this. The nostalgic “Atari” was a wild ride of a different kind, inspired by the now bankrupt corporation that pioneered electronic entertainment. The short but no less brilliant “Laputa” was also one of many songs that highlighted the amazing vocal abilities of band leader Nai Palm, a song dedicated to Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese film director behind animated classics such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.
The two songs which got the biggest reaction were the filthy funk bass and jazz piano of “Swamp Thing” and the superbly slick set closer “By Fire”. The testing a few unnamed songs were the only things to slightly dampened the mood, largely because the audience were unfamiliar with them, with “Cinnamon Temple” offering a glimpse at potentially even crazier and louder things to come on a future third album. Despite the main focus being on Choose Your Weapon, there were a also couple of tracks included from their debut, featuring the fantastically turbulent “Lace Skull” and their most traditional song to date, breakout single “Nakamarra”.
After creating one of the most adventurous albums in recent years, Hiatus Kaiyote have certainly proven that they’re also more than capable of pulling it off live. Nai Palm’s flexible vocals may tie the whole thing together, but this is a band that very much plays together as one. It’s quite amazing that four individuals can create something this intricate and playful, while also maintaining its pop appeal . Some of Australia’s biggest exports in recent years have included Tame Impala and Courtney Barnett, it surely can’t be long before Hiatus Kaiyote receive similar levels of attention.