So at the beginning of the ‘00s we saw bands like Animal Collective celebrated for their neo-tribal aesthetic, releasing albums that wandered like a peyote mind trip. Now in ‘09 the AnCo dudes are lauded by the mainstream, hyped in Spin magazine, and churning out decidedly more pop-oriented material.
And then we get the new new-tribal with bands like Mi Ami, a trio who can strip the paint off the wall by the sheer energy of their live performances. Granted they may have more in common with punk and krautrock but the bottom line is the same: they can rock a trippy nine-minute song that seems to mimic the beating of your own pulse.
Mi Ami doesn’t use any fancy manipulation to reach their psychedelic haze; they’re more garage than Garageband. Their plan of attack is twofold: the pulsating rhythms of kraut and dub, and the in-your-face abrasiveness of DC Hardcore. The result is a wild and unpredictable album, Watersports, which navigates styles and time-periods like a patient veering in and out of consciousness.
“New Guitar” screams of vintage ’80s punk, with slash-and-burn funk riffs colliding with vocalist Daniel Martin-McCormick’s grating squawks. McCormick’s vocals are incoherent and borderline obnoxious throughout. It sounds more like an improvised scat than lyrics, but these emotive chants carry some weight. On the more down-tempo “Pressure”, the vocalist seems to channel both Al Green and Rapture’s Luke Jenner with an insanely high-pitched caw. “The Man in Your House” slowly builds into a crescendo of math-y guitars, squeals and battered cymbals.
It’s the tail end of Watersports, however, where Mi Ami enters the realm of drum-circle freak-out. With two tracks that span 17 minutes, Mi Ami creates some Super Roots-type shit. “White Wife” has a repetitive bass line and a pow-wow drum beat, while the guitar feedback alternates between drone and squeals. On closer “Peacetalks/Downer” McCormick’s scats turn to a whisper as a muted guitar riffs chugs along endlessly.
It might seem fitting that Mi Ami has joined the roster of Brooklyn taste maker Todd Patrick’s illustrious mailing list, replacing the No Age’s and Vivian Girls of ’08 on his curated show lists. But I can’t help but think this is like another season of LOST, where we go back in time to meet new characters, but then are fed the same regurgitated plot lines. We watch anyway but can’t help but wonder if we’re stuck in the same place we were 6 years ago.
To the band’s credit, they seem to be more about creating their own journey rather than following the whims of the scenesters. Recently they explained their approach to WFMU’s Liz Berg this way: “We like a lot of stuff so it’s hard to pin down which [genres] influence the record. It’s kind of a combination of all the stuff we listen to… we listen to a lot of dub, disco, spacey free jazz, stuff from all over the globe and different decades.”
You want to like this band for their unapologetic abrasiveness and their eclectic influences. You’re tempted to buy into the retro-dub/hardcore thing and maybe attend their next Todd P.-related performance. And given Mi Ami’s grating sound and not-so-subtle references to gay male fetishes, I doubt this trio will be featured in Spin magazine come 2019. But hey, I guess you never know, right?