by Kyle Olson
In an effort to fulfill some bizarre need in my life, I purchase a lot of CDs, both old and new. They are obsessively cataloged and organized and poured over track by track (Seriously, it's obsessive. It involves post-it notes and code and excel spreadsheets). It is truly a labor of love (and an unhealthy psychological imperative). But, since I am consuming so much music, I thought I could use this constant influx for the powers of good. Should I come across anything worth sharing (either a new release or an old favorite), I will share them with you. So you'll love me.
Mi Ami — Steal Your Face (Thrill Jockey)
There is a lot of really shitty music. The entertainment industry is full of incredibly bland, boring, trite, un-energetic, passionless crap. And there's stuff like San Francisco trio Mi Ami, who work themselves into a lather laying down visceral junkyard dance parties. Their latest album, Steal Your Face, is a six-song collection of noisy dance anthems, packed full of body-shaking basslines, hypnotic drumming, guitar torture, and frenzied squawks. This San Francisco trio creates a stew of psychedelic, funky, brain-scrubbing dance-catharsis that has immediately landed at the top of my 2010 year-end-best list.
The album explodes out of the gate on the track "Harmonics (Genius Of Love)," with singer and former Black Eyes member Daniel Martin-McCormick's androgynous squawk careening over a bed of Mi Ami's tribal rhythm section. The whole enterprise has the sound of something dangerously unhinged. Even as the band locks into grooves that would turn roomfuls of people into sweaty, shaking messes, the half-decipherable lyrics are delivered with the tone and intensity of someone wrongfully accused of murder, pleadingly eager to make you understand, tightly wound and prone to violent outbursts. This is music that has more passion than the totality of most mainstream radio stations.
Steal Your Face keeps the good time rolling on album highlight "Latin Lover" with a guitarline like an axe chop over a bass/drums stomp, eventually revealing a guitar solo that sounds like someone is ringing its neck rather than forming chords. But lest you think Mi Ami are a one-trick pony (provided "long, high-intensity dance freakout" is a trick), the next track on the album is the spacey "Dreamers," chiming guitars and trance-inducing drums like the hip, psychedelic offspring of Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan." But after this breather, Mi Ami is right back into whipping up a frantic whirlwind with more extended-length soundtracks for your next warehouse party.
Of course, Steal Your Face isn't for everyone. While not noisy/avant-garde in the extreme, Mi Ami does push Can's trance-rock formula to the breaking point, filling the tracks with distorted guitars and analog equipment hitting their limits. And Martin-McCormick's voice is far from radio-friendly. But frankly, if you're the type of person who is turned off by a bit of noise and an oft-putting voice, you're not the type of person who is going to hit a back-alley dancefloor with total abandon, and therefore this album is not for you. Steal Your Face, extremely accessible despite it's experimental leanings, is for those brave souls who aren't afraid of something new and who know that true getting down looks like a bunch sweaty people lost in the music's joyful noise.
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