“I want pleasure on my French toast. I am here to be, to be sexy and free.”
What other electro-pop-rap manifesto starts with a declaration for sexy bread? What other album is the sonic manifestation of reaching into a grab-bag and feeling a mixture of crumbled leaves, Lego, and Luck Charms? What other album artwork marries the Korean symbolism of the Tree of Life with Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa basked in a glowstick sun, a union of cultures and ideals forged in the name of nature and harmony? Welcome to Pleasure Beast: the incarnation of simple creatures with simple pleasures seeking peace in a world that wants to separate and divide. It’s the sound of umami at a rave. It’s the sweaty festival dancefloor as a public service. It’s the political act of writing and performing in the first place. It’s the forbidden bitter fruit that dares you to be human.
Pleasure Beast is also a proper introduction to Haiku Hands, the NME-approved Australian collective of Claire and Mie Nakazawa and Beatrice Lewis. The group, along with stage member Mataya Young, have put on some of the most hyped festival performances around the world—with a sound British Vogue calls part Scissor Sisters, Azealia Banks, Björk, and Warhol. And those are just the singles. Their 2020 self-titled debut — a collection of singles including the big breakthrough “Not About You” — soundtracked countless lockdown kitchen dance parties and earned the group several AIR Award nominations. Pleasure Beast, however, is a proper and complete artistic statement, with the peaks and valleys of the records Claire, Mie, and Beatrice grew up on in the vein of Gorillaz, Beastie Boys, Dr. Dre, Björk, and Australian greats The Presets. Fighting the onslaught of the numbing algorithmic vibe, Haiku Hands dared to make a classic album. With the more dynamic and assertive Pleasure Beast, they’re ready to take you to the dancefloor — in this dimension or the next.
In many ways, Pleasure Beast is the blow-up of the Haiku Hands extended universe. With producers Joel Ma and Elgusto returning from the last album, Claire, Mie, and Beatrice conceived Pleasure Beast on a writing trip to Indonesia and embarked on writing sessions with some of today’s leading iconoclastic producers during a US tour in mid-2023 that included a stop at New York’s iconic Governors Ball Music Festival. Pleasure Beast features the likes of Motez, Broods’ Caleb Knott, Paul Mac, Josh Fountain (BENEE, Ladyhawke), Dan Farber (Lizzo, Tkay Maidza), and TV on the Radio’s David Sitek, the guided hand (pun intended) behind classic albums by Yeah Yeah Yeahs and CSS. Pleasure Beast also features Beatrice’s first credits on an album as a producer, as the group confidently guided the direction of these energized new songs. From studying Hermeto Pascoal playing flutes in streams, to the art of Brigitte Fontaine, Henry Miller, and Pedro Almodóvar, the collective explored different inspirations and gateways to approach their new music, now channeling the sonic and visual edges of The Knife and the punk ethos of Le Tigre. Rosalía, Four Tet, Nelly, Black Caviar, Zebra Katz, Stormzy, Channel Tres, and Hooligan Hefs were other north stars for Pleasure Beast. However, Haiku Hands didn't worry about sounding like their heroes. The most vital trait, like their heroes, was to be themselves.
Entering the world of Pleasure Beast through the French Toast-themed opener “Pleasure,” Haiku Hands take the listener on a journey akin to different hours and moods of a party. “Feels So Good” is the heart of
Pleasure Beast, with a massive singalong chorus tailormade to unite an entire festival crowd. “Cool for You” recalls XTRMNTR-era Primal Scream, Chemical Brothers, and The Prodigy’s assaults on capitalism with songwriting that doesn’t get hung up with a verse-chorus-verse structure. “To the Left'' is an ode to the preciousness of time and the joys of simple things that connect us throughout life. “Grandma” is a snarky clapback against the unquenchable capitalist beast that breeds the social sickness of “busyness,” making us feel like we’re never doing enough and keeping us away from what is most important in our brief yet precious lives. The song’s titular line “Grandma said you’re gonna go far” also follows a Haiku Hands golden rule of songwriting: If a lyric makes them laugh, it stays in the song. The following track “Chito” is another play on words meaning both a lady hustler and the American snack that came from the group’s obsession with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos while in the United States on their last tour. (The original chorus lyric: “Cheeto, Flamin’ Hot.”) Also, shout out to the dolphin sample in “Paradise.” Dolphins make every song better.
With “Ma Ruler” taking us to the chaotic final hours of the party, album closer “Nunchucka” sends you home with the lingering message Haiku Hands want to leave with the listener: Stop looking elsewhere for what you want and enjoy your life. The capitalist and societal vampires will always come after us. But there’s the naughty and instinctive animal inside us all that can rebel and fight back. It’s a simple action, yet it’s the change we can all make today. A Haiku Hands song, record, and show might be the best space to unleash this animal. Not bad for a night out at the club.
Whatever it looks or sounds like, embrace your inner Pleasure Beast.