Review Summary: Multi-dimensional, polyrhythmic food for the soul.Choose Your Weapon
is boundless. Australian quartet Hiatus Kaiyote take its title to heart, cycling through their arsenal, unfettered by conventions. Perhaps the most exciting recent act to reinvigorate elements of soul music, they duly pay respects while striving to push it skyward, collecting many postcards along the way from God-knows-where. Vocalist/guitarist Nai Palm’s delivery is both mystical and approachable - often confusing, but easily relatable in a visceral sense. It’s this magical quality that makes Weapon
difficult to justify to others on an emotional level, as what’s conveyed is often too good
for clinical decoding, and its maze-like rejoicing is worth staying lost in for its seventy-minute runtime. If the comically menacing cover bodes true, one can expect playful nostalgia, a myriad of flavours, and bizarre, worldly flair.
With an album as stylistically all over the place, channeling jazz fusion, soul, R&B, and prog, one might expect an elaborate concept to match. To be fair, it is, somewhat; with song titles like “Shaolin Monk Motherfunk” and “Only All the Time: Making Friends with Studio Owl”, we aren’t expecting straightforwardness. Nai, however, has a remarkable ability to tie everything together, and the various tones and nuances she projects become a focal point, with her quirky lyrics often falling in the peripheral. “Shaolin Monk Motherfunk” sees a smooth jazz groove yield to scat singing and chunky synths. “Borderline with My Atoms” is equal parts arousal and spiritual cleansing. Single “Breathing Underwater” is a vocal highlight, as Palm utilizes rapid successions, sighs, and staccatos, taking cues from drummer Perrin “Pez” Moss (though her commanding presence suggests it could easily be the other way ‘round). If Palm could be reigned in, it would be on closer “Building a Ladder”, a more conventional number by comparison. Despite her impish charm, she consolidates Weapon
: "building a ladder of love to you/and I hope that, love, you built one too.
" This line, while innocent enough, is Weapon'
s north star, asserting a direction in hindsight - a method to the madness.
Perhaps my studies have crossed the line in the sand and eked their way into my music listening, but trying to solve Weapon'
s puzzle is Occam’s Razor in action: the simplest theory often wins. This album is a demonstration of love. Not romantic, necessarily, but simply love, as every song is tender at its core. (The resilient, funk-laden “By Fire” is a tribute to Palm’s father, who passed away in a house fire; “Atari” is, as one might expect, a salute to vintage gaming.) Picking whatever moment resonates with you is difficult, as each song is a self-perpetuating climax. With so many highlights crammed into a sizeable dose, the album is draining. Maybe, it’s just too much of a good thing; maybe, after enjoying the album a dozen-ish times, I’m spent, and happy to consume it in snack-sized portions. Regardless, Choose Your Weapon
is eclectic, joyful, musically impressive, and spiritually rich, so even a piecemeal listening experience is fulfilling. In a 2013 interview with Life + Times
, Nai Palm explains, "to me, a hiatus is taking a pause in your life to take in your surroundings, have a full panoramic view of your experiences and absorbing [them].
" Soak it all in, even if it drains you. The view is worth it.