Originally published in Beat Magazine.
The frightening cover art on Hiatus Kaiyote’s debut LP Tawk Tomahawk, displays the ferocious floating head of a coyote. Perhaps it conveys the horror that a narrow-minded, conservative listener may experience when hearing this record for the first time. This LP is unsuitable for an ear obsessed with conventional music; an ear that is unable or unwilling to look beyond Genre. Highly controversial, Tawk Tomahawk, with its enigmatic lyricism and musical transcendence, will send ignorant listeners into a terrifying state of confusion, consequently resulting in a distaste that is pretty much marked by their inability to comprehend this disjointed and hardly melodic record. For the rest of us, Tawk Tomahawk is a delicious remedy to jaded ears.
Influenced by the eclectic mix of Erykah Badu, Flying Lotus, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding and pretty much anything Flamenco and Columbian-esque, Hiatus have produced a sound that dips a toe in pretty much every single groovy musical movement of our time. There’s a bit of Jazz; a splash of Latin; half a cup of Hip-hop and a whole bunch of electronica. All of this is interconnected with the soul-drenched voice of singer-songwriter Nai Palm. An acquired taste, each track is vastly different to the one preceding it. Hardly hinting at any melody, Tawk Tomahawk is an incredibly random record, preferring instead to piece together a collection of eclectic tracks that have an increasing amount of syncopation and musical flavours. It is polyrhythmic, weird and heterogeneous. But this is exactly why it is so brilliant.
Putting aside its fantastic subversion of traditional musical form, Tawk Tomahawk is also extremely groovy and sexy. Palm’s uber sultry and sensuous tone, complemented with beautifully arranged key compositions and latin-inspired beats makes for a delectable listen. So unbelievably refreshing, Tawk Tomahawk never falls victim to monotony, due to its continual plunge into various different musical palettes. The album is also made up of both long and short tracks, the latter providing temporary respite from some of the heavier songs. Tracks like Ocelot, Boom Child and Rainbow Rhodes are layered with synths and hip-hop beats; electronic interludes that further validate the band’s musical dexterity. Like the instrumentals, Palm’s voice never stagnates. Where she might sing in one song; she will put her own spin on rap in another. She also harmonises a lot, showcasing her ethereal vibrato.
There is a prevalent theme of nature on the record, with a consistent use of tweeting birds. With its wildlife atmospherics and tribal drum patterns, the instrumental Leap Frog sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a muggy tropical setting. The ode to nature is reinforced in Nakamarra, a track celebrating the Australian desert. Also included on the re-mastered LP is an alternative version of Nakamarra featuring old-school rapper Q-Tip. Mr. Tip is an excellent accompaniment to Palm, harmonising beautifully with her in the bridge. His appearance is short and sweet, a wise decision on Hiatus’ part. Q-Tip lends the track an urban flavour; his briefness preventing it from becoming too generic.
Hiatus’ debut is groundbreaking and incredibly innovative, qualities that remind one of the old days of revolutionary musical fusion.
Review Score: 10 out of 10