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You think of EDM as being smothered insynthesizers and held together by a ceaseless, pounding kick drum. But you rarely imagine it as something challenging or organic. But that’s what art rockers-cum-house producers Mi Ami pull off with Dolphins, a 12-inch of four-on-the-floor beats supporting twisted synthetic noises and eerie sonic explorations. It’s a record that thrives on repetition: There are no chopped-up IDM rhythms, but the extended passages rarely feel too long. Some of the sounds come off as cheesy, like cheap Casiotones, but Mi Ami runs with the tools they’ve got, freaking out with dissonance and electronic squeals.
Notably, Daniel Martin-McCormick has abandoned his signature guitar scrapes for the moment. It’s a slightly frustrating move, if only because no one else abuses their axe quite like he does, but the new territory is a logical next step. Bassist Jacob Long left the group last year, and rather than continue as a rock band sans low end, Martin-McCormick and drummer Damon Palermo have immersed themselves in drum machines, samplers, and the keyboards that before only popped up occasionally. Where 2010’s Steal Your Face plumbed the possibilities of extended grooves in the context of a live band, Dolphins does the same within electronic parameters.
Thankfully, the band still features the inhuman screeches Martin-McCormick staked his name on in D.C.’s Black Eyes. His pterodactyl yelps may be slathered in delay here, but they’re no less bizarre—and they’re the most concrete tie to the band’s previous work. The new textures and steady pulse of Dolphins may disappoint fans looking for a freer, more outlandish effort; this is Mi Ami at its most focused. The liquid-sounding tracks employ subtle dynamic shifts to maintain interest, twisting dance music like a weirder, less punkified !!!. Difficult moments certainly aren’t brief or tossed off; the band rides those wild sonic cetaceans for all they’re worth. But mostly, Dolphins finds a band founded on visceral, tortured exclamations sounding—for the first time in its career—strangely comfortable.