Ever since they quietly came onto the scene last year, Australian bred Hiatus Kaiyote has been an act with a sound that both fans and critics have been hard-pressed to describe. Joining a list of foreign-born bands that have fused elements of soul and pop into their own idiosyncratic _______ that includes Quadron and Little Dragon, Nai Palm (vocals, guitar), Paul Bender (bass), Perrin Moss (drums) and Simon Mavin (keyboards, synthesizers) have given their art a moniker: “Future Soul.”After getting some rousing praise from fellow music provocateurs like The Roots and Erykah Badu, Hiatus have been able to show the U.S. wait Melbourne has known for some time. With their set at The Knitting Factory—their 2nd in Brooklyn and fourth in New York City overall—it’s arguable that the Big Apple is the place they’ve gotten the most love. They reciprocated those feelings to a sold out crowd at the eclectic Williamsburg venue.
DJ Rich Medina canvassed the atmosphere superbly with his signature brand of old school soul, incomparable mash-ups, and the wildly obscure, like a New Orleans 2nd line band redoing ODB’s “Baby I Got Your Money!” Medina’s pension for dance floor risk taking was the perfect lead-in to Hiatus Kaiyote’s show. The opening “Lace Skull” was a proper one-song cliff note for the itinerary of the show: songs full of complex, yet hypnotic bass work, cybernetic synths, stabbing, cracking beats, ethereal guitar and soulful vocals. Palm’s voice combines the inflections of a Lauryn Hill with her own Australian accent, sometimes making it difficult to understand the lyrics, but that only fuels into the delicious mystery of the band.
The audience had no problems with the words to breakout track “Nakamarra” as they matched Palm note-for-note, not before losing it during the opening chords. Bender’s bass line was gurgling and Mavin’s Fender Rhodes recalled the dreamy, swirling colors utilized on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Applebum” (fitting that Q-Tip is featured on the track on the re-release of debut album Tawk Tomahawk).
During another stand out track from Tawk Tomahawk, “The World That Softy Lulls,” Hiatus lived up to another label they once used to describe themselves— “multi-dimensional polyrhythmic gangster shit.” Bender and Moss really drenched the song with some thick J Dilla vibes while Mavin’s brooding synths brought out some Dr. Dre aesthetics in the track and Palm sang with the swift flow of an MC. While this and songs like the thumping, spacey “Malika” and prog-funk of “Ocelot” thrilled fans, it was the new material that got everyone in the biggest frenzy.
“Atari,” a little ditty named after the popular ‘80s video game appealed both to rock and hip-hop headbangers alike, with some clever 8-bit sound effects thrown in for good measure. “Breathing Under Water,” the newest of the new songs was like a Stevie Wonder arrangement on exstacy. The rhythmic dexterity was utterly overwhelming. The foursome ended the show with their two most requested unreleased tracks, the soulful “Dr. Jekyll” and the shining, pulsating “Shaolin Monk Motherfunk.”
The highlight of the night came in between songs, though, when a fan threw a paper airplane on stage with a written message inside. Nai Palm read the note which turned out to be a heartfelt thank you, including the encouraging passage, “please continue to evolve, but don’t change!” The band was visibly touched, as this simple moment was much more poignant than it seemed on the surface. Hiatus Kaiyote is a group that challenges itself and everything else in music today, yet they maintain a sound that’s universal in all their songs. Here’s the future of Future Soul.
The World It Softly Lulls
Lockme (featuring Ashley Grier)
Breathing Under Water
Rhythm Section Jam
Shaolin Monk Motherfunk (Encore)