Black Eyes

Black Eyes [Special]

Washington-based Black Eyes, who debuted with the single Shut Up I Never, concocted an energetic brand of post-hardcore on their album Black Eyes (Dischord, 2003). The percussive factor (two drummers, two bassists, one guitarist) evokes the Girls Vs Boys, but the chaotic structures, the funk undercurrents and the jazz shadowing hark back to the Pop Group and the Contortions. Someone Has His Fingers Broken, Pack Of Wolves and Deformative release primal fury and collective traumas. Dan Caldas and Mike Kanin shared percussion duties. Hugh MacElroy and Jacob Long played bass. Daniel McCormick on guitar was the lone melody maker. Cough Cough (Dischord, 2004), which adds a saxophone, extends their research program in the fusion of free-jazz and punk-rock, a progression similar to the one incurred 20 years earlier by the Pop Group. The most daring pieces (Cough Cough, Another Country, False Positive, Fathers of Daughters) are open-ended, but nonetheless forceful, abstract but also very bodily. The loser is rhythm, which becomes a mere notion, not really an actuality. The music floats, coalesces and explodes, but has no rhythm, timeless, implacable, amoebic.

Relocating to San Francisco, Black Eyes' bassist Jacob Long joined vocalist and guitarist Daniel Martin-McCormick and drummer Damon Palermo to form Mi Ami that debuted with Watersports (Quarter Stick, 2009), structured like a dj mix (one song segueing into the next one). The dance-punk singles Echonoecho (psychotic shrieks, circular drumming, techno beat, wild guitar distortion, tribal African percussion, and final cosmic funk crescendo) and Towers Fall were only the tip of the iceberg, an iceberg reminiscent of the spastic jazz-rock fusion of the Pop Group, the chaotic funk-punk of the Contortions, and the existential dub agony of Public Enemy. Echonoecho's combination of convoluted polyrhythms and hysterical falsetto, with the sudden apparition of a piercing guitar, pays off again in The Man In Your House, while New Guitar adds garage riffs and demented pow-wow pulsation and Freed From Sin delves into a trotting hoe-down with ugly atonal guitar. Pressure achieves heights of neurosis worthy of the no-wave (Contortions, DNA) while keeping the beat steady. The layers of Peacetalks/ Downer (the mildly robotic beat, the repetitive guitar pattern, the wailing wordless vocals) are squeeze together until they blend into a relentless tribal orgy, a supersonic garage rave-up. Mi Ami straddled the border between the intellectual and the hedonistic like the new-wave had preached. Suddenly, the nine-minute White Wife plunges into a mellow, sleepy atmosphere, that sets the stage of Long's trippy and Jimi Hendrix-ian solo meditation, the least danceable piece but also the most poignant.

There is perhaps less guitar and vocal eccentricity on Steal Your Face (Thrill Jockey, 2010), but the sound is even denser and equally incendiary. Mi Ami's music references, even more than on the first album, an irrational but perfectly coherent speech. The insane gallop of Harmonics is fueled by a percussive mayhem and guitar eruptions while Daniel Martin-McCormick's falsetto morphes from a childish rigmarole into a disturbing psychoanalytic case. Latin Lover starts out like a group of drunk street musicians playing the Velvet Underground's Sister Ray and fronted by a punk shouter, and then the percussive element takes on a life of its own, derailing every few seconds but always restoring itself. The mind-bending guitar "riff" that triggers the pow-wow dance of Native Americans is also the element that causes its destruction, thanks to a tour de force of noise and counterpoint. The other piece inspired by pow-wows, Slow, resembles a space-rock fantasia that alternatively evokes Grateful Dead, Hawkwind and Jesus Lizard, as usual taking off towards maximum intensity. The raving hysteria peaks with Secrets: the drums pummeling with no mercy, the vocalist screaming out of his head, the shrill atonal guitar inflicting massive casualties. The rhythm is constantly and methodically ebullient. There is only one moment of relative calm: in Dreamers the polyrhythmic loop and discrete bursts of guitar distortion conspire to induce hypnosis. Each musician does his best to become a complex and virulent reagent in the chemical formula of a radioactive explosive.

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2003 - Black Eyes
2004 - Cough

Singles & EPs
2002 - Some Boys / Shut Up, I Never
2002 - Black Eyes / Early Humans
- Have Been Murdered Again / Ranil Talk To The Tigers
2003 - Shut Up, I Never ep