Dawn of Midi – Dysnomia (2013)

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Just when you think that minimalist music was reaching an artistic dead-end, a musical act comes along that opens up new vistas. This time, it’s the Dawn of Midi, a trio with far-flung heritages: the drummer Qasim Naqvi was born in Connecticut to parents who emigrated from Pakistan and pianist Amino Belyamani was born in Morocco and lived there until he was 18. Bassist Aakaash Israni, like Belyamani, moved to California, but as an infant; he was born in India.

Dysnomia, their second studio release, is generating some buzz and it’s not even out at the time of this writing. National Public Radio featured them on their Weekend Edition news program the other day, and enthusiastic tastemakers from The New Yorker to Jad Abumrad of Radiolab are effusing about the highly idiosyncratic music they play on their live shows.

So just what is Dawn of Midi musically speaking and what makes them so damned unique?

Well, Nik Bartsch might call this “ritual groove music,” and to some extent, it does share a lot of facets with the groundbreaking circular melodies he makes in leading his Ronin ensemble. The differences between are subtle but important: whereas Ronin stresses dynamic interplay with shuffling, Third World rhythms, Dawn of Midi is metronomic in rhythm, stubbornly evolutionary in how the music progresses and might stay on a motif for a while but don’t return to it once they’ve moved on from it. Oh, and the other difference is that the bassist plays acoustic bass, not electric.

That means the downtempo music they’re playing is all unplugged. Electronica without the electronics. The Necks, without a power supply.

Dysnomia is nominally nine tracks but artificially subdivided that way; in actuality, it’s a single, album-length performance recorded live in the studio on two-inch tape. And yet, the music can’t be any more different than all the other piano/standup bass/drums performances recorded that way. The music throbs insistently and mutating ever so discreetly, clean from air-filling sounds like cymbal splashes and full piano chords, so if there’s a single, slight mistake, you’d know it. But, there are none.

It didn’t just happen that way, these guys rehearsed the material tirelessly until they got it right enough for the studio, and they even scrapped the original recording of Dysnomia before going back and doing it again. The non-organic sounds they create from organic sources frequently involve clipping the notes on the piano (Belyamani mutes the strings of the piano with his left hand), creating bass notes that pulse like a synthesizer and crisp, strictly modulated drum beats that appear they were programmed that way. After decades of man developing high tech musical equipment to emulate human made harmonies, Dawn of Midi has turned the tables.

It’s enough to either drive many listeners rabid-assed out of their minds or become enraptured by the hypnotic trance music. I’d recommend you’d put on a comfy set of headphones, set aside about forty-seven minutes and become part of the latter group.

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Dysnomia is due out August 6, by Thirsty Ear Records. Visit Dawn of Midi’s website for more info.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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