Album Review: Hiatus Kaiyote // Mood Valiant

Back from their six-year hiatus, Australian jazz-funk band Hiatus Kaiyote have marked their return with a colourful new album that manages to evoke a plethora of emotions.

Proudly fulfilling the role of every hipster’s favourite band, the Melbourne-based four-piece continue to evolve in their new record Mood Valiant. Whilst their signature pretty productions and bass-led grooves remain intact, there’s a profound sense of spontaneity and improvisation present in Mood Valiant, reminding us that after 6 years of staying firmly under the radar, they retain their precious crown of being not like other bands.

Loaded with varying rhythms and textures, the album can feel a bit hectic on first listen. The opening two tracks act as a lethargic, gradual introduction to the in-your-face chaos that follows. Pretty piano chords and a slow, tempered drum groove accompany Nai Palm’s teasing vocals in ‘Sip Into Something Soft’, as we’re gently seduced into the bold single ‘Chivalry Is Not Dead’. The languid atmosphere is abruptly replaced by feelings of uneasiness and unpredictability, and we enter full-on acid-trip territory.

Mood Valiant definitely leans more towards the psychedelic side of the band’s music than their previous work. There are very few opportunities to relax or settle into any sort of groove, and the anxiety-inducing tension that comes from not knowing where the next twist or turn lies may be too much for some. I guess psychedelic aren’t for everyone.

The layering of Nai Palm’s angelic vocals restore a sense of calm in ‘And We Go Gentle’, only for the lively following track ‘Get Sun’ to eject you right back into the world of paranoia. The wonderful synergy between the band is showcased here, and the fruitful collaboration with Brazilian composer Arthur Verocai brings a rich level of instrumentation.

At this stage of the record, things are more than a little fuzzy. We’re experiencing full effects of the Hiatus Kaiyote-induced trip and have no idea what is coming next: vocal crescendos are rising and falling, string sections are jumping out at us, and intricate drum patterns are dictating the tempo with ease. Lead singer Nai Palm is doing her best to poetically guide us through the journey, with lyrical imagery centred around the pouring of rose water on one’s body. The natural warmth and tenderness that she elicits through her voice just about keeps the listener sane throughout all of this, and tailors the journey to her own unique stories.

If you do manage to make it through the most extreme stage, it’d be unfair not to be rewarded in some way. Standout single ‘Red Room’ is the reward that you deserve- a beautifully crafted track that reaps numerous delights, showing what the four-piece are capable of at their very best. The piano (played by Simon Mavin) and bass (Paul Bender) are so locked in that you’d be forgiven for mistaking them as a single instrument. It’ll be a struggle to find a better bass guitar riff this year, and the shrieking desperation in the vocals give the track a soulful, impassioned feel stemming from a raw vulnerability, sitting somewhere between Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse.

The lingering afterglow comes in the final tracks, as the band finally allow us to settle down and return to a more familiar groove. There are still moments of heavy texture, but the sound notably becomes more acoustic and melancholy, reflected by soft piano solos and more downbeat lyrics (“I don’t want to be small, I want to be full of life”).

Hiatus Kaiyote are a weird band. And that is definitely a compliment. You get the impression that being pigeon-holed in any way is something that the members actively fight against. In a similar fashion to Radiohead, or Khruangbin, they’re a band that have skilfully paved a unique lane occupied by only themselves, and something tells me they’re going to keep it that way.


Hiatus Kaiyote’s Mood Valiant is out now via Brainfeeder Records, and is available to download and stream now.

Author avatar
Tolu Sangowawa

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