Mi Ami - Dolphins - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Mi Ami - Dolphins

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2011-03-14

When Soundblab interviewed Mi Ami mainman Daniel Martin-McCormick last June he talked excitedly about reinventing his band's sound while in the same breath scorning bands which make an abrupt switch from guitars to synthesisers for no other reason than - hey - it's a new direction, right? However, following the departure of stalwart bassist Jacob Long, Martin-McCormick and drummer Damon Palermo have, to paraphrase James Murphy, sold their guitars and bought synthesisers. Ok, Murphy actually mentioned turntables in that lyric and it's not like Mi Ami's last release, 2010's incendiary Steal Your Face, didn't make some use of synth sounds among the guitar thrash. But the change in sound one encounters at the start of this EP could not be more abrupt.

Gone is the post-punk/no wave abrasiveness, the space rock vibes and Can-esque dynamics. Opening track 'Hard Up' is the most polished Mi Ami have sounded to date. Some things are recognisable: Mi Ami's sound is still as funky and freaky as a guy with a head full of weed, MDMA and shrooms, and Martin-McCormick still yelps like an angry Smurf with a Robert Smith fixation beating you 'round the head. But with its retro-house beats, squelchy bassline and flange-tastic guitar, 'Hard Up' is a slick night-time creature.

If this is disconcerting for some of the band's fans, they'll probably be reassured by the expansive and spacey atmospherics which open the title track. However, that's about all the comfort they'll get. 'Dolphins' comes on like The Orb pushing to the outer limits of consciousness as dawn breaks over a muddy field on a rainy day in the early 90s. Vintage acid house beats and fizzing effects follow for the next seven minutes. The track is completely instrumental, which is a bold move. 'Dolphin' seems to be a direct homage to some dance music pioneers, which sets off retro warning alarms, but then again, who else these days, besides maybe Flying Lotus, is making music which is simultaneously as propulsive and wilfully trippy as this?

Third track 'Sunrise' continues the crusty festival vibe but returns Mi Ami to something close to old ground, recalling the more trancelike, proto-electro moments of PiL's Metal Box, in particular 'Careering' and 'Socialist'. In fact, the ire in Martin-McCormick voice as is bounces around inside the claustrophobic Roland 707 sound is very reminiscent of John Lydon. It's difficult to make out anything he's singing but a sudden eruption of "You're so sick!" stands out. At nine minutes plus, 'Sunrise' is a full-on sonic assault and is genuinely hard to listen to in its entirety. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

'Echo', which rounds off the EP, opens with some more classic squelchy Roland bass and some classic Martin-McCormick vocals, pitched somewhere between blistering rant and cosmic orgasm, before evolving into the type of serpentine groove New Order might have given birth to circa 'Everything's Gone Green'. It's warmer and more involving than the other tracks on Dolphins which, although they undoubtedly stretch the band's sonic horizons, are a little cold, distant and forbidding.

The wonderful thing about the Mi Ami which made 'Latin Lover', Steal Your Face's standout song, was that they were a party band as much as they were a punk band. Dolphins uses party sounds but often it seems to be enjoying a party you're not invited to. In fact, it's probably not even a party you'd want to go to, unless you're planning to end the night with sick down your shirt dancing to a knackered soundsystem. Still, we can't pretend we're not dying to know where Mi Ami take this next.

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