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Album Review | Hiatus Kaiyote: Tawk Tomahawk

I’ve decided to look over another reissue of a recent album this week with Hiatus Kaiyote’s Tawk Tomahawk all the way from Melbourne, Australia. The major difference between this Flying Buddha release and last year’s original is that it’s available here in the states and features a remix of the gorgeous track “Nakamarra” with a verse spit by none other than Q-Tip himself, something that only adds to the greatness of that song.


Hiatus Kaiyote has a very interesting take on soul music, one that they’re dubbing as “future soul”, an apt name for its futuristic quality. One of the really cool aspects of their music that stands out is their use of wildlife samples from time to time. They include some rainforest noises on “Leap Frog” and some bird chirps on “Lace Skull” as well as on “Rainbow Rhodes.” It works to create this amazing ambient quality to the music, painting a beautiful soundscape one can close their eyes and get lost to.


The one futuristic approach to soul music I don’t fully appreciate is the group’s choice to distort some of the instruments on tracks like “Ocelot” and “Boom Child.” I’m usually all for low fidelity, but in an arena such as this one where it seems like the last feelings they want to convey are ones of anger or frustration, it just doesn’t fit well. Especially with the way Nai Palm’s (I hope that’s her birth name) vocals are laid over the music, it’s all too chaotic. It’s probably a good thing that neither of these songs reach the two minute mark.


That all being said, Palm really does have a wonderful voice. This is evident right away from the opener “Mobius Streak,” a tune that’s super easy to snap to with a killer groove mixing bass and guitar in a sort of call and response that just gets the job done. It even has a little key riff at one point reminiscent of Common’s “Universal Mind Control” in some sense, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Her prowess is also evident on “Malika,” complete with some amazing harmonies toward the end, and of course on the aforementioned “Nakamarra,” a hit so perfect it’s only fault might be that it’s a bit too repetitive, which is where the Q-Tip appearance the second time around definitely helps.


But now that I’m done gushing over the lead singer, it’s time to give the rest of the band some credit. They really do craft some wonderful background music that one can’t help but get down to. There seriously wasn’t one rhythm section arrangement I was dissatisfied with, even the stranger ones still had a kind of infectious drum beat behind them. I must say I was even a bit surprised with the finesse they were able play with on “The World It Softly Lulls,” a relatively calm track with some latin flavor.


Hiatus Kaiyote is definitely an artist to watch the rest of this year as they quickly invade our country next week when they kick off their North American Summer tour. I don’t know if they’ll ever quite reach the popularity held by their fellow countrymen Tame Impala at the moment, but they could come close someday.

Director of Digital | Radio Milwaukee