Hiatus Kaiyote

Tawk Tomahawk

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As with Sweden's Little Dragon, New Zealand's Electric Wire Hustle, and Denmark's Quadron before them, Australia's Hiatus Kaiyote gained notice through a loose network of figures that promotes and/or creates progressive R&B and hip-hop. KCRW's Garth Trinidad and BBC Radio 6's Gilles Peterson were among the first DJs to pick up on them, and the likes of ?uestlove, Erykah Badu, and Flying Lotus expressed enthusiasm. Tawk Tomahawk, homemade and self-released in 2012, also impressed Salaam Remi, who signed the band to his Sony-distributed sub-label Flying Buddha. Led by singer, songwriter, and guitarist Nai Palm, whose slightly scratchy voice croons and howls one moment and then soothes and attacks the next, the band alternates between straight and crooked R&B. They're rooted primarily in decades-old forms of jazz, funk, and soul, yet they sound modern through abstract hip-hop twists and delightful weirdness. Five tracks are two minutes or shorter and leave lasting impressions. "Ocelot" is wickedly choppy with Palm's voice left raw and imposing: "My, my, my ocelot tongue is sharp and I'll eat you up." The knotted "Boom Child" is funky enough to cause animated scowls, while the instrumentals "Rainbow Rhodes" and "Sphinx Gate" make for a twinkling, dreamlike succession. The other five tracks are fully developed songs. "Nakamarra" is the least complicated of the bunch and is warm and relaxed enough to pass for a cover of a Soulquarians project, though it's hard to imagine even Bilal coming up with "We two will breathe, aqua queen/Though vast distance between us, heart sails with love." The stormy "Lace Skull" resembles Grace-era Jeff Buckley, especially though the jabs and spirals from Palm's guitar, while "Malika" has an alluring ebb-and-flow quality. Even with the addition of a Q-Tip-enhanced version of "Nakamarra" here, the album is succinct at 35 minutes. It seems to pass by in a small fraction of that time.

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