“Up close one may see only dots, but stand back and the undulating image is revealed.”
– Dawn of Midi
Last week I went to (finally) see Dawn of Midi perform at the Park Avenue Armory. The group is nominally a piano-bass-drums jazz trio, but the music they make on their debut album Dysnomia, is less like ding-ding-a-ding jazz and more like a fine-geared hybrid of electronica and West African drumming. It’s riveting and intense. The performance was a playing through of the forty-five minute Dysnomia and there were about fifty people in attendance for the group’s second set of the evening that took place in a darkened front room of the Armory.
As I listened I noticed some qualities I hadn’t noticed on the band’s majesterial recording (which I wrote about extensively in an article here). For instance, I noticed the uneven acoustics of the wooden-walled recital room we were in–acoustics whose inconsistencies were amplified by the amplification of the band through a small PA system. I noticed the drum kit sound, which was–understandably–less crisp, round, and beautiful than it is on the band’s recording. I noticed the intricate piano harmonics that functioned as phantom chord progressions. And I also noticed that some of what I had thought was rhythmic interlocking was somewhat more two-dimensional–two musicians holding steady (often pianist Amino Belyamani and bassist Aakaash Israni) while the third (often the group’s drummer, Qasim Naqvi) played against their parts and the collective 12/8 pulse. The true three-way interlocking sections though–“a test of endurance and trust” as the group’s program note bio puts it–were wonderful to hear executed. During these moments members of the audience around me exchanged knowing (and sometimes confused) glances. Wow.
As I listened I wondered whether I was alone in wondering whether, here and there, there was enough in the music to keep our interest. Sometimes I wanted an unscripted deviation from the group’s recording (which was composed by Belyamani and Israni): maybe a rogue chord or a few extra harmonic notes thrown in, or maybe a pause, or even…silence. More than anything I wanted the group to somehow fundamentally remix their already remarkable recording to create an altogether new sonic object. The group is forward-thinking enough to make something along those lines possible and I look forward to what they compose next. In the meantime, as I overheard one enthused listener say after the show: “It was just amazing. Like in a trance, time just flew by.”