Mi Ami Mi AmiDecade
It’s hard to believe that only two years later, this Mi Ami is the same Mi Ami who almost closed the Quarterstick catalogue in 2009. The same band who came to form a part of the Thrill Jockey family in 2010, with an album that had an inexplicable record cover presided over by a crusty with dreadlocks and angular, guitar-wielding music reminiscent of the rock geometry of bands like Don Caballero or Joan Of Arc. Now the music abounds with kaleidoscopic synthesizers, heir of the 90s techno psychedelics of bands like The Sabres Of Paradise. The bass lines are just as muscular, but more reminiscent of dub than of liquid post-rock via Seefeel / Tortoise. What is still the same is the voice of Daniel Martin-McCormick ( “Horns”), who is still screaming as if he were the bloke in The Rapture; trapped in an echo chamber up on a stool, frightened by the cockroaches and mice on the floor. A desire for transformation was already apparent in the transitional 12”, “Dolphins”, which seemed to want to take them into youth chillwave territory. However, as those of you who have made 100% Silk your main label know, the reason for the change is really something else, much deeper— even a question of defection.
Daniel Martin-McCormick is Sex Worker in his free time, but also Ital: the epitome of hipster house, that new batch of dance producers who reclaim the old school of American dance music coming from indie-rock for themselves. His partner in Mi Ami is Damon Palermo, who - besides providing the keyboards for Jonas Reinhardt in what was his first exploration of the cosmic abyss of gliding music - has also rendered homage to Chicago house as Magic Touch. Specifically in “I Can Feel The Heat”, an explosive 12”, where he features alongside Mr. Fingers, MFSB and Kevin Saunderson, also on 100% Silk. In only a year, they both set aside their guitars and started to twist knobs. What seemed to be a first step towards dissolving Mi Ami as a project in progress, was really a manoeuvre to make it into something different; not losing the arty angle, but reworking their roots in another tradition, like people moving plant pots from one balcony to another.
If it didn’t sound so lo-fi, “Decade” could perfectly well be an album released on DFA’s roster. It has an undeniable retro quality that they don’t try to cover up at all - on the contrary, they beef it up as much as possible, aware that their charm is in that air of yesteryear (which refers equally to 70s downtown New York, 80s new wave London, and 90s rave Europe). The entire album is shaken by constant beats that mark time, ending up lost in a labyrinth of rhythm and sound. But the production is consciously scruffy, down-home, and careless; in the line of Not Not Fun, without that luxurious glamour of the labels that are still doing revival disco and Balearic. Mi Ami’s party takes place on a dirty beach with ugly people and bad drugs. Even so, the album is an interesting artefact that expands the battle field for Daniel Martin-McCormick, the stronger man of the two, the one who best expresses the project’s message and intentions.
The similarities between “Decade” and “ Hive Mind”, Ital’s first album released a month and a half ago on Planet Mu, are notable: four and five songs respectively, but almost all long and winding to the point of passing ten minutes, improvised, nostalgic, and escapist - they pass the half-hour mark easily. “Hive Mind” is a veiled (although at times direct) homage to early-90s ambient-house - like The Orb on “Pomme Fritz” and “Orbus Terrarum” - and to Pete Namlook’s long cosmic odysseys, but with the sound in an awful state, faded and discoloured by water and sun. “Decade” situates itself in the same period, the same decade; the title makes it very clear. But it takes advantage of a more pop location to sound like bands such as The Moody Boyz or Andrew Weatherall’s productions for the previously-mentioned The Sabres Of Paradise - although at times it all sounds like preparatory sketches for a cheap remake of “Screamadelica”. “Free Of Life” floats on a bed of stars among tribal rhythms, with hypnotic backing vocals and constant waves of vaporous synthesizers. It leads on to the closer, “Bells”, which aligns itself with the new wave of more underground American dance music. Blondes would also fall into this category (but with a superior finish and a sound that doesn’t hurt one’s ears) of music that prefers to slide in rather than hit you straight. It may sound like a homage to a distant age that they know only superficially, if at all, such as David Morley, the Apollo label, the first references of Wau! Mr. Modo or parties in Goa. It is an instinctive reconstruction of music associated with an awakening of the rave movement, electronic psychedelics, and the discovery of chemistry that acts like entheogens. Digging into the past, dozens of more relevant albums than this one would turn up, on catalogues such as Warp, Sabrettes, GPR and Guerilla. But if we limit ourselves to the present, there is almost nothing like it - and very few that one could say were better.