Thursday, 22 August 2013

Hiatus Kaiyote August 8, 2013

Hiatus Kaiyote  |  Petit Campus

                                 PHOTOS  |  VALERIA VEGA

Hiatus Kaiyote might be from another dimension.

They say they are from Melbourne, Australia, but upon listening to their music, it is easy 

to think that they are from another world of futuristic soundscapes, endless grooves, and heartfelt soul. The band brought their self described “multi-dimensional polyrhythmic gangster shit” to Montreal for the first time on Thursday night and the eager crowd at Petit Campus witnessed an act unlike any other. 

The show started with the hauntingly beautiful Lace Skull from the band’s new albumTawk Tomahawk. The music was astounding. It immediately took the listener on a futuristic sonic voyage. Between singer and guitarist Nai Palm’s warm smile and endearing banter and bassist Paul Bender’s nonstop head nodding, the crowd was invited from the beginning to join the band on their quest through uncharted musical territories. 

In what became a common occurrence in between songs, keyboardist and electronics-man Simon Mavin would create intense, sometimes piercing electronic textures to act as interludes and transition to new songs. Although they were not always aurally pleasant in the traditional, consonant sense, the audience stood, dumbfounded and entranced, every time. It was as if he would dismantle the previous song and construct the next. The World It Softly Lulls emerged from this sonic mélange and it took the entire show to another level. 
As if emerging from the distance out of Mavin’s beeps, blips, and beats, drummer Perrin Moss entered with a light but pulsing beat that gradually took shape. He played around the kit on the toms, snare, and rims, before landing on the quasi-Latin ride cymbal pattern. It was not until Bender entered with the syncopated bass line that we knew what song it was. Like many of the band’s songs, The World It Softly Lulls is compositionally sprawling, and they had some surprises in store for the live version. Suddenly, during one of the instrumental breaks, the smooth, uptempo feel turned into a coordinated groove assault on the audience’s expectations. The group delved into a head-banging, laid back, intentionally sloppy beat that exhibited the influence of the late great hip hop producer J Dilla, particularly on Moss’ drumming. From that point on in the evening, the band noticeably loosened up, smiling more and physically engaging with the music and each other. The energy only escalated from there.

Everything gelled. Each musician had breathtaking skill on her or his instrument. But while each was impressive in his or her own right, the most breathtaking quality was how well each of the musical elements fit together. Bender’s bass was constantly thumping, bone-jarring, shaking each of us in the audience to our core, while always laying right in the pocket. Moss’ drumming was loose by design but always on point, making use us Dilla’s signature disjointed time feel. Mavin’s keyboard playing exhibited a remarkable versatility. At times during his solos he would fly through classical-infused arpeggios, and other times he would steer the solos into hip hop style riffs and the other players would excitedly follow him. Palm’s vocals were all at once gritty, airy, soulful, and truly unique. Her guitar playing, though not showy, was just right in the musical milieu and played an essential role in the show. The compositions were complex yet accessible, danceable, and always kept the listener guessing. Many in the audience were completely engrossed in the music probably without knowing that these were advanced chords, changes, and intricate arrangements, all played to perfection. 

The last song of the set was an opus called Jekyll that exemplifies the band’s sound and varied compositional techniques. It began with Palm on her own keyboard in a gospel-tinged solo intro, gradually invited the others to join, and then traveled through many different places, tempos, and feels, before climaxing in a mid-tempo, backbeat jam that had everyone in the house going insane. 

When the band walked off the stage after the song ended, it was clear that nobody was going to let them leave without an encore. After very little time, they returned to an uproarious ovation and graced us with the self-explanatory Shaolin Monk Motherfunk, another enigmatic composition that is all over the place and yet it never loses its sense of soul. By the end of the song, the band members were smiling and hugging each other as they left the stage, presumably to continue to the next stop on their North American adventure. 

Anyone who is a fan of original, elaborate, accessible future soul music would do well to follow Hiatus Kaiyote. They have been endorsed by Erykah Badu, Questlove, and Gilles Peterson and have a new record deal on the Sony Masterworks’ imprint Flying Buddha. They are going places. We in Montreal were lucky that they made landing here, if only for a brief moment, before setting off again to transcend the musical and physical worlds. 

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