Review Summary: Mi Ami reinvent themselves for the worse.
Formed out of the ashes of Black Eyes, an incredible post-hardcore band from DC, Mi Ami was far more influenced by the psychedelics of the West Coast as opposed to the politics of the East. They maintained what was arguably the most remarkable element of the original band; Daniel Martin-McCormick's signature yelping, along with his style of guitar playing that sounds like literal shredding of the strings. Watersports
, their rocky debut from 2009, displayed clever callbacks to the krautrock of Can and possibly the oceanic atmospheres crafted by Boredoms earlier in the decade. The following year spawned Steal Your Face
, which brought in some serious focus on the best parts of Mi Ami's sound, with a more aggressive attitude and compositions that stuck to the wall once they were thrown. All signs pointed to this band taking the West Coast dub-infused rock scene by storm. However, once their bassist had exited the band, they underwent a massive genre shift. A left turn so sharp that nothing the band released afterward was even in the same playing field anymore.
is, for all intents and purposes, Mi Ami's final album. They have been silent on all fronts since 2012, and by that time, every single constituent that made them distinguishable from their contemporaries was gone. No more clamorous guitars, no more screeching vocals. This is full-on house music.
2/3 of the original group had been producing electronic music independently for some time, and Mi Ami essentially fused into a name for the duo's emanations. Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with house music, but this instance isn't particularly good. Half the songs breach lengths of 10 minutes, but each one fails to be captivating throughout. While 'Time of Love' does utilize a muzak-esque rhythm that's still easy to grasp, the sample work permeating the entire track becomes obnoxious very quickly. Echo-soaked vocal snippets materialize and vaporize at predictable intervals, and brief percussion manipulations make this sound more like an improvised jam session than a well-crafted piece of house music. 'Free of Life' is likely the superior of the longer tracks on Decade
, as it contains more variations stitched into each element, as well as a more confident beat that likes to move around a bit. Despite this, the 10 minutes spent on this track do not feel appropriate. Around minute eight, it's easy to start getting anxious for the end.
This album is book-ended with its two worst tracks. 'Horns' and 'Bells' definitely sound like they're using drums that are exactly the same. If they aren't, then they are still far too similar to be easily discernible. 'Horns' even contains what almost sounds like a mistake; the stretch from 1:00-2:00 utilizes an arpeggiated synth that is not rhythmically aligned with the kick, and that is legitimately annoying to hear for so long. Martin-McCormick's strained voice works against the instrumentation on both of these songs, which is admittedly not surprising given the strong basis Decade
has in electronic music. 'Bells' eventually opens the door for some tremolo picking on electric guitar, but it somehow manages to sound programmed. For its 30 seconds or so, there is no palpable emotion. It sounds like a keyboard preset.
Mi Ami did not go out strongly at all. If they had ceased operations with 2010's Steal Your Face
, their reputation could have been that of a band who made two strong efforts and then moved on to greener pastures. The departure of the bassist in 2011 turned the band on its head, and continued to use this name for a completely different style of music. It's disheartening to see two albums of house music stand next to a wildly contrasting subgenre of rock. For fans, this means that they will almost certainly end up enjoying the first two or the last two, and never the twain shall meet.