Hiatus Kaiyote

Choose Your Weapon

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When Tawk Tomahawk was picked up by Salaam Remi's Flying Buddha, the label added a bonus version of "Nakamarra" -- the album's most direct, traditional song -- with a Q-Tip guest verse. The young Australian avant-R&B quartet needed it more for visibility than for credibility. The move worked, at least with Recording Academy voters, who nominated that version for a 2014 Grammy in the category of Best R&B Performance. Tawk Tomahawk provided a lot to absorb in its 35 minutes. In some ways -- literally, for example -- Choose Your Weapon is twice the album. Seventy minutes in length, it can be split in half and taken as two volumes that surpass what preceded it. The band refines and broadens its attack. From track to track, one ingenious idea trails another. Vocal melodies and guitar wriggles sneak up and tickle the ears, burbling electronics mingle with spiny acoustic guitars, time signatures abruptly switch and stun. Considering five fragmentary interludes of varying consequence and so much nonlinear structuring within the proper songs, Choose Your Weapon isn't always easy to follow. The lyrics of athletic vocalist and guitarist Nai Palm, dizzying on their own, mix natural, supernatural, and technological subjects and are delivered in an array of styles. She gets more personal on late 2014 A-side "By Fire," a burial song inspired in part by her father's house-fire death. Its significance is easy to miss through the battle-theme opening, frenetic mass of swirling/zipping synthesizer action, and octopedal drumming. As out-there as the material gets, rich highlights such as "Laputa," "Borderline with My Atoms," and "Breathing Underwater" are thoroughly winsome, cast in warm light. Progressive-eclectic DJs like Gilles Peterson, Garth Trinidad, and Carlos NiƱo could not have dreamt them up. Within the context of a playlist, any one of a dozen songs here could bridge '50s bop to '60s MPB, or '70s art rock to '80s boogie, or '90s neo-soul to 2000s dubstep. Equally remarkable is that none of it seems devised. It's like these musicians simply radiate the stuff.

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