Nai Palm’s voice shines as beacon for Hiatus Kaiyote

Skylar De Paul/Staff

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In an interview with Life+Times, lead vocalist and guitarist of Hiatus Kaiyote Naomi “Nai Palm” Saalfield explained that the term “Kaiyote” is purely evocative.

“It’s a made-up word, but it kind of sounds like peyote and coyote,” said Saalfield, who was born in Melbourne, Australia. “It’s a word that involved the listener’s creativity as to how they perceive it.”

The same principle can be applied when listening to the neo-soul quartet’s live music.

Just as in the first song of the group’s sophomore album, the members of Hiatus Kaiyote introduced themselves with escalating synths — a crescendo reminiscent of THX’s iconic “Deep Note.” “Choose your weapon,” Nai Palm sang to the audience. She seemed determined to make full use of her voice.

Scatting and belting out uncanny, primal howls throughout, the frontwoman flexed every muscle of her vocal chords and walked them near the edge of breathlessness. For her, gasps are not flaws, but rather another key to hit.

As a result, listening to the 10-song set was like seeing her voice experience a high-intensity workout, as she suddenly shifted to another note, another pitch, another instrument. When Nai Palm sung the outro to “Laputa,” she melodically repeated the word “you” in close succession — in a way that once sounded edited and unnatural in the studio recording of the song but now was being performed live right before the audience’s eyes.

During her performance of “Cinnamon Temple,” yet to be released, Nai Palm deliberately blended words and exhales to create interjections of sound, masking the language she was using — if she was using one at all.

Here, Nai Palm was telling us not to analyze or think but rather listen and experience.

Contact Lloyd Lee at [email protected].org. Tweet him at @helloydlee.