I first heard Hiatus Kiayote, as many of us did, with their single Nakamarra. For a while, this was all I listened to. The group had expertly paved their own genre of jazz-infused neo-soul, crafting a sound that was so distinctly theirs. A few days ago, they released ‘Mood Valiant’. They spent some time in Brazil collaborating with celebrated composer Arthur Verocai, with the South American influence and sounds evident through the record. The album took 6 years to make, and it is clear why. Everything on the album is thoroughly thought out from the lyrics to the arrangements and to the track listing.
Cinematic strings and angelic choir-like harmonies open Flight Of The Tiger Lily, blending perfectly with the opening of Slip Into Something Soft. “They say chivalry is not dead. Imma make it up to you” are the sole lyrics of the song. The instrumental is simplistic and light, giving the track a light, fun and romantic feel. Technological sounds open up Chivalry Is Not Dead, a faster-paced track which details the mating rituals of creatures such as leopard slugs, hummingbirds and seahorses; comparing them to human lust. “Close to your molecules”. The songs’ rhythm is quick and, at times, hard to follow, giving it the excitement and unexpectedness of human connection. Vocalist Nai Palm describes the song as:
“After we did Choose Your Weapon, we had to make radio edits of our songs, and all of our shit is like 6 or 7 minutes long! So ‘Chivalry’ was me fucking with the ‘hit record’ formula. I’m gonna write a song that’s 3:40 long, and it’s about sex, but I’m gonna make it fucking weird. Examples from the natural world that are fucking with the status quo”
And We Go Gentle is more cool and laid-back. “Tell me can I get a light?” Palm sings over subdued, simple drums and layered harmony. The bass-line carries the song, gluing the rest of the instruments together while simultaneously standing out. Get Sun follows, featuring Brazillian arranger Arthur Verocai follows. It is a hopeful, summery song, featuring funky brass and alluring string arrangements. Verocai’s touch to the song adds an extra layer of musicianship to the already impressive chops of Hiatus Kaiyote; a fantastic collaboration. The song is not so much something to listen to, but something to experience. Headphones on, and just let it take over.
All The Things We Don’t Say returns to the theme of exploring human touch and connectivity. “Draw into the sky, drink me with your eyes… All the word’s we don’t say”. “All the words we don’t say” repeats Palm in the chorus, describing how human love, adoration and attraction can be explored without verbal communication. Disjointed woodwind opens Hush Rattle before transitioning into Rose Water. A melodic, almost waltz-like piano plays against bass guitar, each playing 2 melodies that don’t gel. The drums and vocals come in, keeping the unanticipated sound yet tying it together. It still feels disconnected, yet comfortable. “All of my heart… it wants to hold you” she repeats. “My Hayati” she sings, an Arabic term meaning “my life”, reserved for loved ones. The songs romantic disjointedness expresses the unpredictability and everchanging joy and nervousness of loving someone. The simple piano closes the song beautifully.
Red Room has a cooler, more lo-fi neo-soul sound to it. About a space that is uniquely yours, a cosy personal space, the song is perfectly paired with a late night wine, warm blankets and a few candles. “It feels like I’m inside my eyelids, and I don’t want to be anywhere but here”. Described by Nai Palm as the song celebrating having a home or nest that is uniquely yours after being uprooted many times in childhood.
Sparkle Tape Break Up carries a nostalgic type of sound. It depicts Palm looking back on a relationship that had ended, and how she wished she was different so it could have lasted. “Maybe if I was hard and not so emotional” she sings, “If I had only known”. Stone Or Lavender follows along with the lyric “Maybe if I was hard and not so, “you get a little bit, I get a little bit, we can get over it” with the lines “we will get over it, only if we want to”, implying she was the only one in the pairing willing to work through the issues. The track is more stripped back than the rest of the record, opening simply with just keys and vocals. “Please don’t bury us unless we’re seeds”. The piano is supported by soft strings, creating an unexpected emotional track. “Please believe me when I say, someday it will be okay”. Her vocals are more intimate then the rest of the tracks, adding to the emotion of the song.
Exploring the ideas of reality itself and how the body is constructed, Blood and Marrow explores the complexity of human anatomy, concluding that “We are only love and longing”. The song doesn’t just explore human nature, it is human nature at its very core. Using samples of bat echolation and gentle, lo-fi electronic drums, the song draws you in and keeps you in.
In a rare time when we have not felt so connected, ‘Mood Valiant’ has come along to remind us just what it feels like. The record is musically complex but theoretically simple. We are at the mercy of our own desires. We love, long for and lust after each other deeply with only one goal; to connect. They lyrics are unashamedly poetic while the musical aspect is intricate and innovative. With inspiration drawn from Bossa Nova during their travels and collaboration, Hiatus Kaiyote take the romanticism of the genre and fuses it with their distinct sound.
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With thanks to Thinking Loud