Ho-ly shit, it’s a postmodern shotgun wedding for the ages: Dawn of Midi explores cell-cycle minimalism, polyrhythmic afrobeat grooves, and disjointed “electronic” timbres as a jazz trio. This is acoustic music mimicking the electronic mimicry of acoustic music (God is dead guyz). But the pieces are composed and performed so well that any theoretical pontification is unnecessary; this record is in every way as aesthetically enjoyable as it is intellectually stimulating.
Like The Bad Plus, Dawn of Midi’s ridiculous musicianship demolishes the expectations and possibilities of the trio format. But on long-developed debut Dysnomia (Thirsty Ear), these musicians also deconstruct their tools. Amino Belyamani has a hand inside the piano as well as on the keys, dampening and segmenting the strings as he plays to control the spectral quality of their vibrations. He reveals or cloaks different overtones and emphasizes the percussive construction of the piano, maintaining and developing multiple textures simultaneously. Aakaash Israni, when not driving the music forward with super funky syncopations, spends lots of time high up on the fingerboard where the aural clarity of the bass begins to deteriorate. Drummer Qasim Naqvi works in muted sputters, utilizing every surface of his cymbal-less (okay, only hi-hat and it’s always clamped shut) set, allowing for massive dynamic dexterity and blending with the piano and bass. Everyone is exploring and exploiting the limitations of their instruments, where each sonically “breaks”, intent to acoustically recall the crunch and compression of synthetic samples.
The pieces themselves operate much like extended electronic music: brief motifs develop slowly through an elastic field of time into huge expanses, only to drop out and begin again. Each instrument is an ever-deepening color, their independent grooves encroaching on each other, blending to reveal different shades and fuller dimensions of the minimal tonal pool. The songs bleed into each other and self-quotes reappear sporadically throughout. Dysnomia has the ambition and virtuosity of large-scale jazz compositions like Mingus’ The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, but the vastness is communicated through the deconstruction and fragmentation of only three instruments. Despite this, and the title, and the black-hole iris of the cover, this music is too kinetic to symbolize dread, oppression, or isolation; it’s insistent and teeming with life, machinery run on soul.
The craftsmanship alone certainly assures Dysnomia will be one of the best records of the year. The immensely expressive ends assure repeated listens for many years to come. Dawn of Midi have developed a unique musical perspective and taken the time to cultivate its concise assertion. Buy this record now.