New Music
17.04.2009, Words by Charlie Jones

Mi Ami "It's a quest."

“For me the best shows are like dreams,” says Daniel Martin-McCormick, singer and guitarist from ace noise/drums/punk three-piece Mi Ami over a vegetable curry in Brighton. “Not to be overly cosmic about it, but dreams in the way that you have an intense experience and when it’s over you don’t remember it clearly. And when it’s over it’s not lost but it’s… passed.”

It seems time is important to these genre-defying San Franciscans, not least because they’ve just flown into the UK for the first date of their European tour and the jet-lag is etched into their faces. Two of them, Daniel and bearded bassist Jacob Long, have been here before with most popular of their many previous bands, the Dischord-signed Black Eyes.

But take one listen to Mi Ami’s debut album Watersports and you’ll instantly realise we’re a long way from DC hardcore. Thundering tribal polyrhythms grapple with fat dub pulsations as Daniel squeals over broken shards of angular guitar. Like a more muscular and brooding Animal Collective, they meld myriad styles into an anarchic yet cohesive bundle of audio energy, going so far as to cite the likes of blissed-out minimalist composer Terry Riley among their inspirations. “One of the most compelling things about his music is when time actually starts to stretch out,” Daniel carefully explains. “When we play together it’s crucial that we get into that same expansive space. It’s not even timing but being in the same time together.”

Heady stuff, and not surprising given their formidable musical CVs. Daniel has studied classical guitar and composition, while drummer Damon Palermo did time in free jazz bands before getting restless with the strictures of this ostensibly rule-less genre: “It can become like a trap – ‘I’m only going to play drums that never repeat’. It becomes less free than classic rock!”

For his part the monkish Jacob spent time crafting meditative drones in solo project Earthen Sea before hooking up with the others, who had already been playing together for a year, in 2007. Talk too much of influences though, and you’ll be met with frustration: “It’s not just a case of ‘we like this band’ and ‘we like this style,” says Jacob. “For us it’s more of a quest, or an openness to hearing new things.”

“The Pop Group comparison is better than others I’ve seen,” he concedes. “Because they weren’t just trying to be this ‘punky funk’ band, they were into other stuff too, from harsh weird noise to college funk.” Daniel sums it up: “It’s not a particular sound we’re looking for, but a feeling.” What feeling? “Freedom.”

Watersports is out now on Touch and Go/Quarterstick records.

Mi Ami’s myspace

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