Experimentally soulful four-piece Hiatus Kaiyote hails from Melbourne. Banded together since early 2011, the group features vocalist Nai Palm, bassist Paul Bender, drummer Perrin Moss and keyboardist Simon Mavin. The band built a strong following at their extended residency with The Evelyn Hotel in Melbourne. Featuring a futuristic eccentricity, Hiatus Kaiyote launched their debut Tawk Tomahawk EP in April 2012, sporting their jazzy-rich vibe and selling out their EP launch show at The Northcote Social Club. The EP features singles “Lace Skull” and “Nakamarra” that deliver the easy listening that the band excels at producing.
For over 3000 years, Native Americans in Mexico and the Southwestern deserts of the United States have used peyote in religious ceremonies, as the mescaline-heavy cactus is known for inducing deep metaphysical states. So perhaps it's no coincidence that the second part of Hiatus Kaiyote's name just so happens to rhyme with peyote. On their 2012 debut EP, Tawk Tomahawk, the Melbourne, Australia-based foursome makes mystical, futuristic soul music that's like a soundtrack for a mind-altering vision quest. Everything's just slightly off-kilter—not in a way that's jarring, but in a way that makes you take a closer listen to hear all of the intricacies. Lead single “Lace Skull” is one of the best examples of this. It kicks off with a dark, dramatic piano line that sets the tone for front woman Nai Palm's mysterious lyrics: “Lace skull that once hung low on its humble throne/awoke arose/awoke arose/said did the scroll of salty diamonds that did truly roll on,” she sings in her distinctly dusky drawl. She further demonstrates her vocal capabilities by seamlessly transitioning from low and guttural growls, all the way up to a scratchy, higher-pitched register. Like Nai Palm's dynamic vocal range, the instrumentation doesn't stay on one course. While a single piano line is the focus at the beginning of “Lace Skull,” towards the final bridge there's a build-up of over 70 layers of sampled sounds, including recordings of cicadas in Indonesia, late-night synth sessions, and recordings played backwards. “Ocelot” is one of the shortest tracks on the EP (at 1'24”), and also one of the funkiest. Junkyard-style rhythmic beats bring to mind the music of tUnE-yArDs, and the way Nai Palm loops and layers her ferocious vocals even sounds a bit like Merrill Garbus—however, still keeping her own flair with the way she rolls her r's, sounding almost like the purr of the desert cat that the song is named after. Instrumental track “Rainbow Rhodes” is Haitus Kaiyote's subtle ode to the electro-mechanical piano invented by Harold Rhodes in the early 1950s. It takes advantage of the instruments shimmering, ethereal tone to create a completely blissful listening experience. If this is the future of soul music, we eagerly anticipate Hiatus Kaiyote's first full-length album.