August 10, 2013

Playlist Week of 2013-08-10

Dawn of Midi - Dysnomia

* Holloway/Mortensen/ter Linden: Garrison Church, Copenhagen 2008-04-08 (FM 2CDR)
* Poulenc: Complete Chamber Music (Nash Ensemble) (d.2) (Hyperion 2CD)
* Poulenc: Sacred & Secular Choral Works (Gr. Vocal de France/Alldis) (d.1)(EMI Classics 2CD)
* Miles Davis: Seven Steps: Columbia Recordings 1963-64 (d.1-2) (Columbia/Legacy 7CD)
* Sun Ra: Media Dreams (Saturn/Art Yard 2CD)
* Sun Ra: Disco 3000 (Saturn/Art Yard CD)
* Sun Ra: Sound Mirror (selections) (Saturn LP>CDR)
* Sam Rivers: Streams: Recorded In Performance At the Montreaux Jazz Festival (Impulse! LP)
* Larry Coryell: European Impressions (Novus LP)
* The Crusaders: Free As The Wind (ABC/Blue Thumb LP)
* Lenny White: The Adventures Of Astral Pirates (Elektra LP)
* Marilyn Crispell Trio: Live in Zurich (Leo CD)
* Matthew Shipp: Nu Bop (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Matthew Shipp: Equilibrium (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Ralph Alessi/Kris Davis/Ingrid Laubrock/Tom Rainey: LARK (Skirl CD)
* Dawn Of Midi: First (Accretions MP3)
* Dawn of Midi: Live at WFMU 2010-08-03 (WFMU MP3)†
* Dawn Of Midi: Live (Dawn Of Midi MP3)
* Dawn Of Midi: Dysnomia (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Grateful Dead: Dave’s Picks Bonus Disc 2013 (12/21/69) (GDP/Rhino HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: Dave’s Picks Vol.7: Normal, IL 1978-04-24 (GDP/Rhino 3HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA 1995-03-18 (selections) (SBD 2CDR)
* Jerry Garcia Band: Cumberland Co. Civic Arena, Portland, ME 1993-11-09 (selections) (AUD 2CDR)
* Crosby Stills & Nash: Crosby Stills & Nash (Atlantic/Audio Fidelity CD)
* The Soft Machine: The Soft Machine (ABC/Probe/Sundazed LP)
* King Crimson: Discipline (DGM/Inner Knot CD/DVD)
* Kyuss: Blues For The Red Sun (Dali/Elektra LP)
* Kyuss: Kyuss (a/k/a Welcome To Sky Valley) (Elektra LP)
* Kyuss: …And The Circus Leaves Town (Elektra LP)
* Sleep: Dopesmoker (Southern Lord 2LP)
* Boards Of Canada: Tomorrow’s Harvest (Warp 2LP)
* Steven Wilson: Grace For Drowning (KScope BD)
* Steven Wilson: The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) (KScope BD)
* Opeth: Newbury Comics, Leominster, MA 2013-04-20 (AUD CDR)
* Kylesa: Static Tensions (Prosthetic/ Twenty Buck Spin LP)
* Kylesa: Spiral Shadow (Season Of Mist LP)
* Clutch: Earth Rocker (Weathermaker LP)
* Pelican: “March To The Sea” (Hydra Head EP)
* Pelican: City Of Echoes (Hydra Head LP)
* Pelican: “Ephemeral” (Southern Lord EP)
* Locrian: Return To Annihilation (Relapse 2-45RPM LP)
* Pineapple Explode: Pineapple Explode (Pineapple Explode CDEP)
* Pineapple Explode: A Bushel & A Barrel (Pineapple Explode CDEP)
* Beach House: Bloom (Sub Pop CD)



As usual, I went to my favorite record store on Tuesday (which is, of course, new release day) and was pleased to see they had one copy of the latest in the ongoing “Blue Series” on Thirsty Ear. Curated by executive producer and monster pianist Matthew Shipp, pretty much everything they’ve released over the years has been uniformly excellent. So, even though I had never heard of Dawn of Midi, I figured their "Blue Series" disc would be worth checking out. But, let me tell you: nothing in that already super-eclectic catalog prepared me for what I was about to hear on Dysnomia.

I popped it in the CD player in the car for the ride home and, at first, it sounded like early electronica, all locked grooves, stuttering rhythms and fleeting snippets of what appeared to be synthesized melodies (think Aphex Twin at his most bucolic—or some of Shipp’s own experiments for the label). But, as it played, I realized this is not electronic music at all. It is 100% acoustic: pianist Amino Belyamani, bassist Aakaash Israni and drummer Oasim Naqvi playing together, live, in real time. Wow! Okay, I get it: Dawn of MIDI (as in Musical Instrument Digital Interface). Very clever.

I guess I should have known about DOM, whose 2010 debut, First (Accretions), won all kinds of awards as well as glowing critical acclaim while subsequent online-only live recordings have documented well-received tours all over the world. I had no idea. Yet having now heard those records (hastily purchased downloads, anyway), Dysnomia would still have come as a shock. Their previous work is essentially in a quasi-minimalist, free-jazz mode, with touches of lush, impressionistic harmony—not so far away from the cool, cerebral ECM sound of the early ‘70s in many ways. There are moments—especially in concert—that briefly cohere into a pulsating, electro-ambient feel but they always eventually dissipate into fractalized abstraction. Beautiful music to be sure—but nothing like what happens on Dysnomia.

In fact, there is no improvisation whatsoever to be found on any of these nine pieces, which seamlessly flow together as one long 47-minute work. The band spent almost two years learning and rehearsing Dysnomia, scrapping the original recording at the mastering stage and started over from scratch, ditching altogether their usual semi-improvisational approach. The resulting album, with its machine-like discipline and superhuman musicianship is truly mind-blowing, emulating as it does the motoric stasis of electronica yet imbuing it with the empathic warmth of heartfelt intention. To achieve such electronic-like effects from his piano, Belyamani plays the keyboard one-handed, with the other hand damping or otherwise manipulating the strings inside the instrument. Similarly, Israni attacks the upright bass like the percussion instrument it is; meanwhile, Naqvi’s trap-drumming is subtle, elemental and hypnotic. They also brought in renowned engineer Rusty Santos to mix the album, and he gives it an in-your-face, aggressively bottom-heavy sound more appropriate to modern dance music than jazz. But then again, this is not really a jazz record, is it?

"Dysnomia" is an appropriate title for this album in that while the music at first seems recognizable, it cannot be accurately named. Or, rather, it can only be defined by what it’s not: it’s not electronic, it’s not jazz and, although thoroughly through-composed, it is most definitely not a piece of “classical” composition (it’s way too funky for that!). At times, it sounds more like some long-lost Afro-Asian folk music than anything else—but it’s obviously not that either. Dysnomia is an undeniably impressive display of tightly controlled virtuosity—but it’s much more than just an empty athletic event. Beyond the initial shock of mis-recognition, the music holds up to repeated—even obsessive—listening. Belyamani, Israni and Naqvi, who originally hail from Morocco, India and Pakistan respectively, have  apparently tapped into something very deep here, crafting an album of purely acoustic music that reflects—and incisively comments upon—our globalized, virtualized, digitalized world. In that way, I guess you would have to tag this a kind of super-sophisticated folk music—but only in the sense that all music is folk music of one sort or another. Whatever you want to call it, Dawn of Midi are onto something with Dysnomia and listening to it is a rapturous—dare I say, religious—experience. Music that at first seemed merely impossible turns out to be something nearly miraculous; I call that art.

Go check them out on Soundcloud and "like" them on Facebook. Better yet, buy their albums. Supposedly a vinyl edition of Dysnomia is on the way. Dig it!


Roddus said...

after a rave like that I had better have a listen.

Sam said...

Here are my lists from last week:

Playlist 2013-08-12:

*Sylvie Courvoisier/Mary Halvorson/Ikue Mori: 2010-07-24 Whitney Museum of Modern Art (CDR)
*Duke Ellington: The Private Collection, Vol. 10: Dance Dates California 1958
*Dizzy Gillespie: The Complete RCA Victor Recordings 1937-1949 (disc 1)
*Andrew Hill: 2000-04-29 London (CDR)
*Andrew Hill: Time Lines
*Paul Lytton/Nate Wooley: 2011-03-02 The Stone, NYC (CDR)
*Charles Mingus: Cumbia & Jazz Fusion (side 1)
*Charlie Parker: The Complete Live Performances on Savoy (disc 4)
*Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers (disc 4)
*Sun Ra: Continuation (Saturn/Corbett vs. Dempsey 2CD) disc 1
*Sun Ra: Disco 3000: The Complete Milan Concert 1978 (Art Yard)
*Sun Ra: Sleeping Beauty
*Sun Ra: On Jupiter
*Charles Bradley: Victim of Love
*Gary Clark Jr.: Blak and Blu
*Donald Fagen: Sunken Condos
*Grateful Dead: 1972-05-10 Amsterdam (CDR) discs 2, 3
*Grateful Dead: 1972-05-11 Rotterdam (CDR)
*Grateful Dead: 1972-05-13 Lille, France (CDR) “Truckin’>Drums>The Other One>He’s Gone”
*Grateful Dead: 1972-05-18 Munich (CDR)
*Grateful Dead: 1972-05-23 London (CDR) set 2 (selections)
*Grateful Dead: 1972-05-25 London (CDR) disc 3
*Guided By Voices: Isolation Drills
*Impressions: This Is My Country
*Jackie Mittoo: Last Train to Skaville
*Prince: The Hits/The B-Sides (disc 2)
*Prince: Montreux Jazz Festival (boot CDR)
*Prince: 2013 Leaks 2 (boot CDR)
*Prince: 2013 Leaks 3 & 4 (boot CDR)
*Prince: 2013 Leaks 5 (boot CDR)
*Prince: Days of Soundboard, Vol. 5: Rehearsals 2012-2013 (boot CDR)
*Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones Singles Collection: The London Years (disc 2)
*Stock, Hausen, & Walkman: Oh My Bag!
*Various artists: Enjoy The Experience (selections)

Reading List 2013-08-12:

*Knode, Helen. The Ticket Out (started)
*Fleming, Ian. Thunderball (reread/started/finished)
*Ellroy, James. The Hilliker Curse (finished)
*Hyde, Lewis. Common as Air (in progress)
*Weldon, Michael J. Psychotronic Video Guide (in progress)