Hiatus Kaiyote's 'Love Heart Cheat Code' Is the Future Soul JavaScript

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jun 27, 2024


I don't know how much Love Heart Cheat Code — the fourth studio album from Australian quartet Hiatus Kaiyote — is actually meant to take inspiration from coding, but the parallels in its triumphs and tribulations reveal themselves readily. The album's rhythms feel vital as blood and deeply embodied, yet an overwhelming sense of simplicity grounds it on a cellular level; it feels directed toward an audience looking through the peephole into the world of psychedelia, gesturing for them to come through the door.

While Love Heart discordantly attempts a goofy non-seriousness (the very endearing "Longcat," about a cat who is long) and mythic-level odyssey theatrics (the resplendent, Disney strings-laden "Dreamboat"), it might serve well in showing the range of Hiatus Kaiyote's self-proclaimed "future soul" genre despite making for a somewhat disjointed listen. But it's not that the microcosmic quality of Love Heart isn't impressive in its own right, clocking in at just over a half-hour runtime.

As aforementioned, it covers a range of aspirations — both transcendent and fun-forward — however, it feels more like an anthology collection than a jazz-funk journey. Some of the songs seem like they were meant more as interludes, not fully fleshing-out ideas and instead leaning on heavily repeated lines, like "Everything's Beautiful," where kaleidoscopic flute work isn't enough to pull underwritten lyrics out from the mundanity. Following 2021's Mood Valiant — which conversely felt like an experimental expansion in their sound — Love Heart Cheat Code follows certain algorithmic-like structures, only pre-programmed with the slightest variations, to an extent that can feel repetitive.

Ironically, part of this is exactly what allows groove-driven music to ascend to heights of ecstasy. It's what lets largely instrumental acts like Khruangbin capture the zeitgeist online and pack huge rooms IRL: the process of getting lost in a groove and being awoken by where the music takes off from there, Dionysius-style. These same acts likewise tend to be in their bag when performing live, capturing the synergy of a group of musicians in virtuosic lockstep.

For Hiatus Kaiyote's first two albums, they still sounded like a live band who just happened to be caught on tape. It wasn't until Mood Valiant that they seemed to come into themselves as recording artists, using it as a counterpart to who they were on stage as opposed to making futile attempts at capturing the energy of audience repartee magic on record. And while they've found themselves as a studio band, they've also lost the spontaneity of live performance.

When Love Heart breaks the feedback loop of its own foundational creation is where the record is at its most compelling. The tracklist placement of the frenetic, uninhibited energy of Hiatus Kaiyote's distortion-drenched, larger-than-life "Stairway to Heaven" moment on live fan favourite "Cinnamon Temple" and the clangorous, Santigold-esque swagger of "White Rabbit" make the album not ascend to its peak until the very end.

Meanwhile, early highlight "Telescope" grows into sensual, supple polyrhythms from an '80s synth patch — all in spite of an odd Temptations interpolation, where singer Nai Palm repeats, "I guess you could say / What can make me feel this way? / Is it kush or outer space? / And space is the place." The breadth of the vocalist's range and the depth of her belt are a marvel, both at first listen and beyond. She's certainly at the top of her game vocally on this record, and it's kind of worth a listen for that alone.

And that's the thing with Hiatus Kaiyote: even when repeating patterns and not really achieving emotional resonance (on purpose?), their lyrical nonsense — the "Jump the shark" bit on "Cinnamon Temple," "Roadrunner, roadrunner / In there like swimwear" on the title track — and skyscraper-scaling arrangements still make for a pleasurable, entertaining listen, especially coupled with incense swirling in the bloated breeze on a hazy summer night.

(Ninja Tune/Brainfeeder)

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