Mi Ami’s Watersports is post-post-hardcore for the hyphen-laden crowd

Let’s face it, post-hardcore is kind of a dated term and a more appropriate label would be post-post-hardcore. “Angular and noisy” is what we hear about so many vaunted bands, but nowadays the bands that really inspire us are those who transform the punk template by embracing mellowness. Watersports, the debut full-length album from San Francisco three-piece Mi Ami, isn’t Don Ho, but it does sound a lot different than Black Eyes, the previous project of the bassist and guitarist/singer of Mi Ami.
This time around, Mi Ami has added reggae, afrobeat and a fury of other sounds to the raw post-hardcore of Black Eyes. The yelping vocals are still there, courtesy of Daniel Martin-McCormick, but instead of sounding like he’s shouting insults at passersby, or delivering lyrics that sound like sermons, he actually sounds like he’s having fun.
“Echononecho” is basically a dub-based groove revolving around jubilant vocals that repeat the word in the title. Sure, this whole thing is still rooted in a tradition of the wild and out-of-control sort of music that we saw start with bands like The Velvet Underground and The Stooges, move on through the whole “punk thing,” explode in the ’80s and ’90s with The Jesus Lizard and Butthole Surfers and their ilk, and continue on to the current generation of noise-rockers, led mainly by the now-defunct Arab on Rader and Lightning Bolt.
Still, it’s hard not to compare Mi Ami to Black Eyes, seeing as how, even in very languorous songs like “White Wife,” there is still that prickly, ominous guitar line or wave of eerie feedback lurking in the background to keep us from getting too cozy. Think early Abe Vigoda, where mellowness becomes kind of a respite from the jagged abuse of the noisier songs. In the same way that James Chance twisted jazz and calypso and forced them into the no-wave mold so that it came out sounding still abrasive and experimental, Mi Ami is not a reggae band, nor an afrobeat band, or most of all, a “world music” band. They come from a punk/noise/avant background (Black Eyes were on Dischord Records and there is no doubt that the band was influenced heavily by Ian Mackaye and his various projects), but still, Mi Ami is not even simply a “post-hardcore” band.
Mi Ami is a band that requires hyphens and multiple adjectives, meaning of course that we can never accurately describe the sound on an album like Watersports, so we have to come up with new awkward terms like “afro-noise” or maybe “abrasive funk.” At the end of the day, however, these are the bands that we cherish, that force us to think outside of the strict definitions of “punk” or “noise-rock” or even “rock.”

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