Label: Thrill Jockey Release date: 05/04/10 Website: Myspace The world grows smaller every day, so they say. In an environment where all genres of music from any country and historical period is available to any bugger with the ability to wiggle his or her fingers in the right places, it’s increasingly difficult to maintain a sense of musical heritage. These days, as Mi Ami point out, “a working knowledge of rap, disco, dub, club and world music basics is as pedestrian as eating a burrito for lunch and Thai for dinner”. And when you have so much (too much?) variety at your fingertips, how can you have any kind of focus as an artist? What is the sound of a mind in musical overload? Mi Ami are, possibly, the answer to that question. Steal Your Face is the San Franciscan trio’s second full-length album and is a notable improvement on last year’s debut, Watersports; an exciting but ultimately unfocused effort by a band in obvious infancy. Steal Your Face is notably succinct in execution. While having an obviously progressive, experimental agenda, the album does not outstay its welcome; its six tracks totalling just over 35 minutes. Where other bands with a bent for improvisational wig-outs might use the 80 minutes available on a CD as a kind of target, Mi Ami graciously get to the point. Leaping suddenly and deliberately into a thumping, tribal rhythm laced with dubby bass, slap-back guitars and yelped vocals, first track ‘Harmonics (Genius of Love)’ comes across as Public Image Ltd translated through Detroit hardcore, and conjures up connections with other viscerally funky bands such as Volcano! or much-missed The Tremula. ‘Latin Lover’ at first sounds disappointingly like something The Rapture might have lazily cooked up a few years back, though the song is saved majestically by an excellent guitar/keyboard/something-or-other solo that sounds like someone’s racking up some MASSIVE points on Pac Man. The highlight of the album for this reviewer. ‘Dreamers’ wins the prize for Most Obvious Song Title; a hazy, stoner-rock piece giving the listener a welcome respite from the relentless bombardment of the first two tracks, allowing the dust to settle for a while. It’s not long though before singer Daniel Martin-McCormick is shaking us out of our reverie to tell us we’re “completely fucked”, and those familiar driving tribal drums are kicking the dust back up around our legs, characterising the rest of the album. Overall, Steal Your Face would be far more successful as a listening experience if the variety and dynamics in evidence on the first half of the album were maintained to the end. While undeniably exhilarating, the sheer incessancy of it all eventually borders on grating and it’s to the album’s benefit that there are only six tracks, ending just at the point when it becomes a bit too much. There is a great deal of talk about the band shining most brightly as a live unit - a “fun time party band” - which is easy to imagine. But an album should be able to stand on its own as a piece of art rather than as a demo of a band’s live show, and it is in this sense that the album is not an outright success. On the other hand, that’s not to say it is anything like a failure; Mi Ami’s refreshingly individualistic approach is as compelling as it is confusing. It’s possible to make vague associations with the afrobeat rhythms of Fela Kuti, the dub-punk crossover appeal of Fugazi or the prog-latin leanings of bands like The Mars Volta, but referencing other bands seems somewhat pointless. Mi Ami are gloriously peculiar. They occupy their own space and are increasingly comfortable within it. But in this world of unlimited musical resources, Steal Your Face is the sound of men binging all day on randomly picked music from an unbounded record collection, then purging themselves suddenly and violently. Musical bulimia if you will. Whether or not this is a good thing in the long run it’s difficult to say, but we can certainly have a great deal of fun finding out. Photobucket