Release Date: Apr 6, 2010
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
Steal Your Face, the second full-length album from San Francisco trio Mi Ami, is so intense it might overwhelm to the point of frustration. That's how I first reacted, struggling to find the same sort of entry points that its excellent 2009 predecessor, Watersports, offered. By contrast, Steal Your Face seemed too kinetic and overloaded to draw you in.
Taking the title from the Grateful Dead’s album with a shredded version of Jerry Garcia's iconic mug on the back and Bob Marley's on the front, Steal Your Face finds Mi Ami continuing to desecrate the face of traditional music. Picking up where they left off with Watersports (and the limited-edition 12” single Cut Men), their sophomore full-length is a steady driving sonic stew of lacerated guitars, twisted basslines, constantly shifting drum patterns, and yelping crescendos. Fairly consistent with their other material, if anything, the songs have become more stylized and refined.
After listening to this record a couple of times I’ve decided that Daniel Marin-McCormick has one of the most annoying voices in music. I’m putting it out there. I can’t think of anyone with a singing voice that comes close. In fact, he doesn’t even really sing. Rather, he yelps, he squawks ….
If you’re doing something vaguely original in hipster guitar land today, you won’t be for long. In a subculture of culture sharks, the rip-offs are instantaneous – thus ‘lo-fi’ fuzz, beards and a dude-like drawl have torn through the hipster community of late like Californian wildfire. But no-one wants to copy [b]Mi Ami[/b]. The San Franciscan trio suffer arcane, kaleidoscopic seizures that are often wildly embarrassing – [i]“I felt something man, I got excited”[/i], frontman Daniel Martin-McCormick explains on [b]‘Latin Lover’[/b].
Maybe I need to crush some Ritalin to calm me down, but every time I hear Mi Ami, I imagine the dude on the cover of Strut’s Nigeria 70: The Definitive Story of 1970s Funky Lagos compilation zooming down the street like Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, with Peter Tosh’s machinegun-guitar slung over his shoulder on his way to treat a dance floor like a warzone. This dude ain’t out to rub-a-dub, but to mash up on the hyper-beat, freak the fuck out, and get gone like the character in the Grateful Dead song from which Steal Your Face takes its name. This is Mi Ami’s second long-player, and they’ve managed to sustain the intensity of both albums in addition to the few rippin’ EPs and singles released so far.
Brian Eno infamously surmised in a 1995 article for Wired magazine that “The problem with computers is that there is not enough Africa in them”. Eno meant this as a body assessment, suggesting that the stillness of the corporeal interface with computers was an imprisoning confinement, particularly when compared to the elasticity and fluidity of indigenous instrumental playing techniques. Nevertheless, many in the non-breakbeat-based electronic music milieu inured this embarrassment as a sonic insult, spending a good deal of the ‘naughts apologizing with all manners of rhythmic emancipation, freeing the temporal structure of software-based engineering from the constrained thrust of backbeats and kick-drum metronomes alone.
Let's just get it out of the way at the start: Mi Ami has a divisive singer. Daniel Martin-McCormick's caterwauls are going to send some listeners home immediately, with a style that draws on hardcore predecessors like, say, Ian Svenonius or Guy Picciotto, but an octave up, and with more of a nod to the No Wave shrieks of Arto Lindsay or Lydia Lunch back in the day. .