Tous les articles par Imad Salimi

The particles that make my body vibrate to the waves of music. Computer engineering student, I want to do so many things in life I end up doing none.

Hiatus Kaiyote: Multi-Dimensional, Polyrhythmic Gangster Shit.

Amongst the musical discoveries I’ve made this year, I created a special bond with a particular one; from Melbourne, Australia comes Hiatus Kaiyote. A neo-soul quartet freshly started in 2011, but brought to music something new and futuristic. Founded by bassist Paul Bender, singer -and a special kind of- guitarist Nai Palm, quickly joined by Perrin Moss (drums) and Simon Mavin (keyboard).

Most of the members were solo performers, Nai Palm for example used to compose complex songs on her own without much knowledge of music theory, making it hard for her to put a band together. Luckily, Bender discovered her talent in one of her gigs, he was so impressed by the performance that he had to propose the idea of a band. Nai Palm wasn’t convinced enough and refused at first, and it was until a year later that they met again by chance and that time, the course of music history took a little turn.
There’s no ressource on what the idea behind their name means; Hiatus means ‘a break or interruption in the continuity of a work’, Kaiyote sounds like coyote… but that’s just me. And « Multi-Dimensional, Polyrhythmic Gangster Shit » is funnily the band’s way of describing their work, it’s just a random phrase they came up with on a road trip, yet it is so strangely fitting.

A huge part of the inspiration I got from this band’s music comes from Nai Palm and the way she transmits her messages,  and you will soon know why, maybe you’ll become hooked too. (Just kidding there’s no `maybe`)

Time to bias you, plug-in your earphones or boost up your speakers, and listen as you read through the rest.

Arose a Rose

Before I talk about the musical aspect of the band, I want to introduce you to Nai Palm, who -for me- is Hiatus Kaiyote‘s emblem. Her liberty of self-expression is one of her strongest characteristics, and she adds a very philosophical pinch to her music.

« To be completely honest, the roots of most creative expression is birthed through pain. It’s usually from the need to process something fucked up or unbalanced within myself. Working it out and then sharing it with people so that they might gain perspective for themselves, or something astoundingly beautiful that shakes me to my core and I need to connect to it through creation. There’s no set formula. Inspiration is intangible and elusive. »

In a recent interview1, Nai Palm discusses her creative process and what helps her trigger it; a chunk of peruvian Palo Santo wood that she occasionally sets ablaze with a lighter, Charlie -her parrot and good friend-, and a very interestingly looking Buran mask from Indonesia. Mysticism and bohemian behaviour give a unique aura to her person, emphasised on with the bizarre outfits, exotic earrings, and a badass hairstyle.
Nai Palm’s vocal game is on point, she has so much control over her voice, yet is so adventurous with it and isn’t content with only singing lyrics, humming and oscillating from alto to soprano never sounded better. She gracefully slaps her orange jazz guitar to make the cleanest sounds, creativity and energy make up the core of her playstyle, so much groove that the music often falls between hip-hop/funk/jazz. If there is one word I could describe this artist with, it would be: Ballsy.

Nai Palm definitely stands out in today’s music scene as a singer, songwriter, and performer. She’s the blossoming rose that will mark the name « Hiatus Kaiyote » on music’s history.

Nai Palm
Nai Palm

Tawk Tomahawk (2012)

The first album recorded by the band was a big success, they fused jazz, hip-hop, and more musical flavours under the « neo soul » genre, and they did it in a pretty amazing way. In 2013 they were nominated for a grammy award as Best R&B Performance for their song « Nakamarra » performed with American rapper Q-Tip, but had lost to yet another promising band; Snarky Puppy (which I’ll surely write about in the near future) recording « Something »2 with Lalah Hathaway.

The album is composed of 10 songs, although the playstyle differs from one to another, that « Hiatus Kaiyote » stamp is strongly present through the whole album. Keyboards come out huge  in the band’s musical process; Simon Mavin does a great job of setting the mood for the songs and gives the rest of the band room to freestyle, with adaptation to the core idea of their music of course. The percussions in almost every song are complex and inherit their time signatures from jazz and latino.
I found this album kind of « experimental » and that’s what I like about it the most, a four-piece of music fanatics gathering together, not afraid to try new things out and make the world puke rainbows.

After the grammy nomination, they were invited to take part of a series called ‘Chronicles’3 made by Red Bull Music Academy & Boiler Room, it’s an artist-curated series of documentaries and events that tell the stories of Australia’s most innovative artists. They acquired a lot of renown and their name quickly got widespread, they knew how to capture attention and set a path for themselves.

Choose Your Weapon (2015)

Although Tawk Tomahawk was a well received album and had some great jams, it leaves you with a feeling that the music wasn’t fully developped; most songs are under two minutes and there’s a lot of experimenting done, but what this meant is that HK were only readying themselves and the public for what is to come.
In May 2015, they returned with something more musically mature when they produced and released their second studio album intitled « Choose Your Weapon » independantly through their record label « Flying Buddha« . It comprises 18 songs and lasts for almost 70 minutes, which is double the duration of their first album. Nai Palm describes « Choose Your Weapon » as an extension to the debut, with more she also stated she and the band had no intention to make a one genre body of work, but rather style and format the album like a mixtape by throwing in some interludes.

« Choose Your Weapon » doesn’t shy away from going all the way and really grinding out some impressive rhythms and unique sounds. Nai Palm stepped up her poetry and wrote lyrics touching upon themes of supernatural topics, technological subjects and death. In addition to writing all of the album’s songs, she was the designer of its artwork. Overall, more dedication and authenticity were shown by Hiatus Kaiyote in this album, and they certainly made the public thirsty for more.

« Choose Your Weapon » is a call to -intellectual- arms, urging the listener to get hold of their own world and be true to their own expression, to select the good vibes that flow with one’s own, and to explore what triggers emotion in oneself.

External references:

1 – Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon with Nai Palm: Triggering Creativity
2 – Snarky Puppy feat. Lalah Hathaway – Something (Family Dinner – Volume One)
3 – RBMA X Boiler Room Chronicles 001

Plini: The Prog Prodigy

Plini, 22 years old, Sydney, Australia.
This is all the information that this modern-day Buckethead lets out to the public about himself. This, and the wondrous collection of chefs-d’oeuvre that he creates, which are mostly recorded and mixed in his bedroom, each written in very few days. A one of a kind one-man band.
One of the few underground geniuses -although he’s relatively new to the scene- who still have a rock-solid fanbase that never hesitates to support him and thank him as if he saved their monotonic life and brought something special into it.

His unparalleled play style, sometimes influenced by progressive metal idols « Dream Theater » -playing fragments of a song in another song from another album is so DT-, and the organized messiness in his songs is very Zappa-like.
The ability to create the jolliest progressive melodies that bring about so much happiness to the listener is definitely one of the most peculiar assets of Plini.

In his music you can feel a simple-complex duality; Simple and basic techniques used to play the songs, accompained with complex melodies, time signatures, and tempos, to make perfectly homogeneous sounds.
Plini‘s music is the ultimate proof that you don’t need to shred through the whole song just to make a point. (A musical point, that is)

Plinio Designori was the antagonist in German author Herman Hesse‘s novel « The Glass Bead Game », which Plini‘s mother used to read. Being a character from an outside world, it swayed Plini to choose it for a name to keep his anonymity, for some reason.

So if you’re having a rough day, or are in need of inspiration, let me (with the help of Plini himself) take you to a better place.

1- Heart

Here’s the best example of all that I’ve stated above. The simplicity of the riffs and the sudden switches in the song’s virtual mood overwhelm you. Clean guitar with drop C tuning, a magical staccato solo, the harmony between the instruments, and that recurrent metronome sound that plays from the beginning of the song to its end. All of these components sum up to make a masterpiece that I’m sure you’ll like.

2- Atlas

Plini‘s jazz influences come out high in this one. Chromatic scales and a little bit of carelessness in playing that still makes sense to the musical ear: Jazz.

3- Sweet Nothings (The E.P.)

The 2nd EP by Plini, which had more success than its predecessor « Other Things » -both were written in two days each-. The song « Opening » in a sort defines the general theme of the EP, it sets the mood, the time and the space for the rest of the songs. « Tarred & Feathered » is one of the most beautiful progressive ballads I’ve ever heard. The third song, « Away », has more attack in it, but it keeps the flavour of the previous songs within it. Plini, obviously a fan of american rapper Kendrick Lamar, remixed this song with the latter’s « Poetic Justice ». You can check it out here.

(Bonus) Moonflower

Moonflowers are very beautiful and fragrant. But sometimes the prettiest of flowers grow thorns and hurt you.

I hope you’ve enjoyed discovering and listening to Plini.

Dhafer Youssef: A Musical Genius

Perfect music was always something that attracted me, inspired me to learn music, and motivated me to play an instrument. Perfect music gives a better taste to life; It revives and shakes one’s feelings, relieves him of his burdens. Perfect music, the true elixir of life.

November 19th, 1967. Dhafer Youssef was born. He grew up as a simple kid and studied at a Qur’anic school. He comes from a long line of « Muezzins », so for him mastering vocal performances was a heritage and a must. Although he used his voice mainly to recite Qur’anic verses, that didn’t stop him from listening to Jazz now and then, in which he grew an interest.
Moved by his beautiful voice, the local Muezzin asked him to record the call to prayer on tape. Even though he used a cheap plastic microphone, his voice resonated so strong as it flowed from the top of the minaret. That’s one of the experiences he could never forget despite all the albums and live concerts he made later.

Youssef would later leave Tunisia in 1990 for Vienna, where he wanted to start a carreer and shine as a Jazz musician. He jammed in bars and clubs, meeting other musicians and expanding his musical knowledge pool and finding more influences.
His first album « Malak » came out in May 1998; A collaboration with a bunch of musicians. Himself on vocals and oud, Paolo Fresu an Italian trumpeter, and Nguyên Lê on the guitar, etc… The album had a wide acceptance among critics.

« Achingly beautiful vocal » ~ The Guardian

Indian and Norse music are his main influences, from which he drew the wilderness and mystique that you can hear on his musical creations. A purely spiritual artist, his music connects to the soul and rejoices the heart.

There is much more to say about Dhafer Youssef and his Quartet, but even if I tried to I wouldn’t have enough words, so I will just leave you with this beautiful song, a perfect illustration of perfect music, the kind of music that Youssef was born to make.

Oriental Waves Playlist

A fine collection of rare oriental songs that will boggle your mind. Ranging from Egypt, through Lebanon, to Turkey and Greece, this music has a unique soothing air to it.
The Oud‘s majesty combined with Jazzy progressions in one resplendent mixture, these artists truly grasp the meaning of oriental music, and know how to keep the balance between modern and traditional.

I had to dive through the depths of the internet to come up with something this exquisite, I’ll let you be the judge.

Oriental Waves by Imad Salimi on Grooveshark

Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory

If you’re a fan of mysterious stories and great progressive rock/metal music, Dream Theater‘s fifth studio album « Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory » is a must-listen. Recorded and released in 1999, the album came as a sequel to their song « Metropolis, Pt. 1: The Miracle and The Sleeper » on the magnificent studio album « Images and Words ».

The album was voted #1 all-time progressive album in a poll done by Rolling Stone in July 2012. The main reason is that there is more to it than just the songs; This album tells a story… Get ready to go on a journey filled with excitement, love, deception, and treacherous murder.

Album Cover
Album Cover

Act 1 – A Regression Into the Past…

Scene 1:  Year 2000 – Nicholas, the main character, starts it off in a past-life regression therapy session. The hypnotherapist relaxes him as he enters another state of mind and travels back through time, to meet a stranger girl called Victoria.

Scene 2: Year 1928 – Nicholas is now in a state of trance, he’s lost in the comfort and exoticness of this place.
Some parts in the beginning of the song can be heard on « Metropolis Pt. 1« , the song where Victoria‘s name already figured.

That place and that girl were recurring Déjà Vus for Nicholas, as he says that everytime he closes his eyes he dreams of being in this ghostly, haunting house. He walks into the house and sees Victoria fronting a mirror and wonders why he’s there, and what he has to do with her.
She then expresses her lament in the next verse, saying that something’s tearing her heart into two, and she needs to tell Nicholas about it. « I’m not the one The Sleeper thought he knew » is a reference to Julian Baynes, her husband, whom she had cheated on with his brother, Edward.

Nicholas is out of the trance and back into real life, but he’s still dazzled by this mystery and won’t find peace until he finds some explanations.

Scene 3: Nicholas thinks so much about Victoria and comes up with the only possible explanation; He was Victoria in a past life. They share the same thoughts, the same visions, the same eternity.

Maybe he knows he was Victoria a long time ago, but what her story was, what she was involved into, he never knew. Nicholas sets to find out, and asks an old man who knew what happened long ago in that house; A murder took place, Victoria was its victim.
But that’s still a mystery to Nicholas, he realised that until he solved it, he can’t live his current life, « there can be no peace of mind ».
The song ends to the voice of the Hypnotherapist taking Nicholas to the night « his » murder took place.

Scene 4: « Murder: Young girl killed. Desperate shooting at Echoe’s hill » this is what Nicholas read on the headline of a newspaper from 1928. An unknown witness heard gunshots and tried to help, but he found a woman shot and a dead man next to her holding a gun and a suicide note.

Victoria had a switchblade on her, meaning she expected something to happen, and the murderer’s suicide letter never mentionned his intention to kill or harm Victoria.

Scene 5: Nicholas goes back to real life again, so sad after learning that Victoria was brutally murdered, and grieves her death in her grave. He’s learning about his life through her memories, and the unfairness of her sort was too much for him to take.
He had to regain his composure and accept her death, to move on and try to understand how Victoria really died and why their lives are connected this much.

Act 2 – A Sad Close to a Broken Love Affair

Scene 6: Now it’s Julian‘s (The Sleeper) turn to tell us his side of the story. We learn about his addiction to gambling and drugs; « Lines, take me higher ». He’s begging for help, he wants to stop these bad habits and get Victoria’s love again.
His brother Edward (The Miracle) too narrates that Victoria is crying over his shoulders because of her breakup. « I remember I was told there’s a new love that’s born, for each one that has died » is a line heard on the first part of Metropolis. The Miracle is tempted by Victoria, and wants to make love to her, even if it takes deceiving his brother.
Midway through the song a woman moaning can be heard, along with the sound of a slot machine and a man encouraging a player to keep wagering. This depicts the affair between Victoria and Edward, while Julian is satistfying his gambling addiction.

Scene 7: The Dance of Eternity
This instrumental song is what made this album complete, technically and melodically. The song goes over 128 time signature changes, making it the most complex prog metal/rock song ever.
The last phrase in « Metropolis Pt. 1 » was « Love is the dance of eternity », this could represent when Victoria and Edward make love, a dance that they will remember forever… Or so they thought.

The next song begins with Nicholas going over the whole story in his head, it doesn’t make sense to him. From what he saw so far, the newspaper account can’t be the truth. Did Victoria wound Edward‘s soul and bid him farewell?
We then hear Victoria saying « One last time, we’ll lay down today », this will be her last time seeing Edward, and she wants to make it memorable.

Scene 8: Nicholas is now out of the trance, for the last time, reiterating that he shouldn’t fear death anymore, because no matter what, his spirit will carry on. Victoria shows up and tells Nicholas to move on with his life, she had revealed the truth to him, and now her story won’t plague him anymore.
 Nicholas now feels that the reason all of this happened, is that death is not the end, but only a transition, as the Hypnotherapist has already pointed out.

Scene 9: Finally Free
This last song holds information that Nicholas isn’t aware of, because the hypnotherapist brings him out of the trance and he leaves in his car. As we hear thunder rolling in the background, things are about to take a dark turn.
Victoria and Julian run into each other and decide to meet up later in secret so they can talk. She is excited because Julian is the one she has always loved, she’s « no longer torn in two », and is going to break it off with Edward. But she knows Edward would « kill his brother if he only knew » of their affair.
They meet without anyone knowing, or so they thought. Edward shows up, and fights with Julian who brings out a switchblade. Edward shoots his brother. Victoria screams. Edward tells her « Open your eyes, Victoria » and shoots her dead. Julian crawls over to her and murmurs his last words « One last time, we’ll lay down today.. ».
Edwards writes the suicide note and leaves it in Julian’s pocket, and then runs for help to play his part as the « witness ».

As Nicholas arrives home and is comfortably listening to the news, another car pulls up. The Hypnotherapist enters the room and startes Nicholas with a « Open your eyes, Nicholas ». The phonograph gets bumped then we hear static noise, which fades to black. What happened remains unclear.
But on the live DVD of the album, it was revealed that, just like Nicholas is Victoria‘s reincarnation, The Hypnotherapist is Edward’s too.  And he has killed Nicholas to complete the cycle yet again…

Overall, it’s only natural if this album would be voted #1 prog rock/metal album of all time. It combines perfect melodies, with an ideal storyline. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, because I personally did. I find its ultimate message of « Death is not the end, but only a transition » something really beautiful to believe in.