Review: Mahal Kita by Hikes

Written by on April 13, 2020

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Last year, Austin-based ethereal folkish post-rock band Hikes released their album Mahal Kita. While you won’t be able to catch them (or any other band) live for the foreseeable future, their record is an epic for these times: brimming with gentle, almost spiritual sounds that remind the listener of the natural beauty found on the trails while the ferocious percussion and guitars that shift from soothing to screeching and back again seamlessly express a wonderful intensity.

Mahal Kita kicks off with the soothing, celestial ‘Been Thinkin’. On this track, the band’s folkier influences shine through with a hard rhythm and airy guitar and vocals over them. Altogether, the song feels like being outside on a sunny day, walking the trails. Indeed, such days are the inspiration for the band’s name. “When I was in high school and my parents separated my Mom would always take me on hikes with her,” says frontman Nay Wilkins, “cleaning trails, canoeing, camping, swimming, it totally defined my childhood, with my first open tunings sitting out in the woods and tuning to whatever the landscape told me.”

The next track, ‘Extra Mile’ is a collaboration with fellow Austin band The Kraken Quartet. It showcases the louder, heavier side of the album as well as the band’s post-rock influence. The furious guitar hits like a wave, later on joined by a cacophony of percussion as the track builds to its crescendo, and yet just as it reaches that point, the storm breaks for a moment and the vocals shine through like the sun on a cloudy day as Nay asks “do you still go the extra mile, cos it’s not crowded there?” (Right now, it’s always a good idea to go the extra mile to avoid crowds!)

‘Mahal Kita’, the title track, was the hardest to write according to Nay: “we attempted to write the song years ago when we were writing for [2017 EP] Lilt, but we didn’t finish it in time. There was a lot of thinning of parts and rearranging, I spent so many hours listening to certain parts looped to figure out structure.” That work pays off as the title track is perhaps the entire album in microcosm: it starts with calm, folk-tinged guitar and airy vocals, before crashing into a loud storm of a chorus, the urgency of the drumming shining through, juxtapositioned with the soft vocals.

‘Graying’, a quieter, mournful number in which the lyrics truly take center stage, contains a line originally about ageing but that seems to apply to us all during the pandemic: ‘someday I would miss the small things, someday came too soon.’ Mahal Kita then launches into another wave of ferocious percussion and bellowing guitars in ‘Empathy’, punctuated by a yelled chorus.

Each song on the album is a little gem that stands on its own two legs, and yet they come together to form an astounding whole. While Nay often comes up with the initial ideas, the whole band has a hand in writing: “It usually starts with an idea or riff I have. Sometimes I’ll have a fully worked out song structure that I’ve pieced together. I usually like to let the band change it from how I initially heard it in my head. Sometimes that’s really hard because I’ve spent a lot of time with the idea, but it always works out being more unique.” It certainly makes for a unique album, which shows a reverence for natural beauty and the outdoors. Since that beauty is one of the few things we can all still engage with, this album feels almost prophetic, and is perfect to enjoy before a walk in the woods to get you in the mood.

The final track on Mahal Kita, ‘Beauty, Again” is a light, flowery, uplifting number, with the refrain ‘will I find beauty again in this life?’ The answer is, of course, yes, in just a moment when I play the album again from the start!

Mahal Kita is out now on Community Records.

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