The Daily Texan, Life & Arts: 02/04/09
When D.C. punk band Black Eyes disbanded in 2006, frontman Daniel Martin-McCormick and bassist Jacob Long eventually found themselves in the Bay Area of California. Joining forces with drummer Damon Palermo, they became Mi Ami and quickly released a 12” called African Rhythms. True to its name, this release showcased the new trio cranking out pounding, tribal jams covered in delayed yelps and skuzzy guitars.
With Watersports, the group’s first full-length release, Mi Ami have pushed this new mode even further, embracing, on one hand, more abrasive vocals and guitar work, and on the other, more complex, evolved bass lines and rhythms.
In many ways, the rhythm section is the true star of Watersports. Palermo’s drums here are more rolling than pounding, and though the percussion is less overtly tribal, each of the tracks maintains its own complicated rhythmic structures. The bass on this record, too, has been expanded since the 12”. Each of Long’s fluid basslines manages to acrobatically contort and wriggle around the beat, leaving his work on par with the sounds of early post-punk bands like ESG and Liquid Liquid. The amazing skill of both of these players allows them to constantly lock into complex grooves, supplying the tracks with an infectious, cohesive energy that buries a feeling of propulsive momentum at the core of each track.
While the rhythms and bass of Watersports are amazingly inviting and infectious, the members of Mi Ami haven’t forgotten the grating punk rock sensibilities of their former band. Bubbling, rhythmically-charged bass and percussion are slammed together with Martin-McCormick’s slashing, distorted guitar and panic-ridden vocals. In fact, it takes a few listens to get past the screeching yelps that punctuate the tracks. Eventually, though, the percussive squeals begin to blend in with the rest of the music, adding a frenetic energy to the proceedings.
Though noisy punk and deep, dub-influenced beats are combined, Watersports isn’t Bad Brains-style reggae/punk fusion. Instead of short, thrash blasts, Mi Ami break more toward rolling, disco-esque extended jams. Updating that sound with healthy doses of screams, feedback, and attitude leaves Watersports sounding like a fresh departure from both tired disco tropes and the auditory barrage of their old band.