Dawn of Midi Will Make You Dance
After listening closely to Dysnomia, the new album by Dawn of Midi, it becomes clear why the title was not directly inspired by the Ancient Greek meaning of the word: "lawlessness." The music is precisely ordered; it is ecstatic, but not anarchic. It is also unlike the condition of dysnomia--the inability to recall words or names--because Dawn of Midi know exactly what they want to say; the band says it loudly, eloquently, confidently.
See also: The Best Jazz Shows in NYC This Month
Dawn of Midi play (le) poisson rouge Tuesday, 9/3.
The Brooklyn-based trio--bassist Aakaash Israni, pianist Amino Belyamani, and percussionist Qasim Naqvi--borrowed the album title from the moon of Eris, the dwarf planet. And all the songs are named after moons: "Ymir," of Saturn; "Sinope," of Jupiter; "Moon," of Earth; and so on. "The nine movements," says Israni, "are named after different moons because the music is the music of orbiting bodies: every part is circling around the other parts. The three instruments circle around each other in this prismatic way. Everyone is playing one small thing. By itself, it doesn't seem like much; together, you can see a bigger picture."
Dysnomia is an adventurous departure from the heady, improvised jazz of the band's first two recordings, First (2010) and Live (2011). The new album, out now on Thirsty Ear Recordings, seeks a bridge between Ancient and contemporary dance musics, and the journey is thrilling and demanding, cerebral and visceral. Imagine Traxman and Jon Hopkins and North African trance music played on Western acoustic instruments. It is a ravishing mind-fuck with a hardcore groove. Speaking on the telephone from his apartment in Dumbo, here is what Israni had to say about it.
I have heard that, in the past, Dawn Of Midi practiced in the dark, in a room with no lights.
We did that when we were making improvised records. When we first met, we practiced in pitch back rooms, so we could just hear the music, and not observe anything else. We did that for a while, and we even did a few concerts like that. But, for this piece, we didn't play in the dark. It was a completely different process. It wasn't just about playing what you were hearing, but this piece was more worked out and composed. But when we started as an ensemble, we found our original chemistry in the dark. In the dark, all we had to deal with was sound, so we could access the music much more directly.
Dysnomia was recorded twice. What happened with the first version, and, assuming you were unsatisfied with it, why were you unsatisfied with it?
We had been working on this idea for a long time. We recorded a version of this music that was much earlier, and that was the embryonic form of this music. When we did it, I didn't like it. I didn't think it was good enough; we didn't take it far enough. But we scrapped it and composed an entire new, more sophisticated version. Then, a year later, we recorded a new version of it. So we didn't record the same piece twice, but we scrapped an intermediary compositional part, and composed it and recorded it over again.
What was it that changed between the first version--with the band, the composition--and the one that ultimately became Dysnomia?
We had to go through that embryonic step, I think. The earlier version was partly composed and partly improvised, which is a common format for composition with improvisers. But it didn't yield to a satisfying result for us. Going through that made us more willing to do something that was fully written. It allowed us to say, "Okay, we have all these concepts and ideas, so why don't we have the entire thing be composed?" So much music is completely composed, so it's weird that we considered that a strange thing. Nirvana is composed; so is Bach. So there is no improvisation: Everything is played the same way every time.
There is something very exact and ordered about the music that makes it brutal. I don't use that word in a negative way. Every note seems perfectly placed.
If you think about it as three people on instruments, it can seem brutal. But if you think about it as music, it's no more brutally exact than any sort of band album. If you don't know who or what is making the sounds, it sounds no different than any other dance record.
For us, this is a dance record. A lot of the compositional information comes from Ancient folkloric musics used in ritualistic and trance type settings, where, during spiritual settings, they are meant to induce trance and be danced to. We definitely were inspired by those musics when we composed this. This is very much dance music in the way it's being produced on these Western music instruments. This is definitely music to dance to.