Review: Dawn of Midi at Cafe Oto

Dawn of Midi at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved

Dawn of Midi
(Cafe Oto, early set on 17th May 2014; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

What came over most strongly on hearing the early part of Dawn of Midi's UK debut set at Cafe Oto was an unmistakable affinity, albeit coincidental, with the Australian maestros of atmosphere, pulse and texture, The Necks.

The young, Brooklyn-based trio of Amino Belyamani (piano), Aakaash Israni (string bass) and Qasim Naqvi (drums/percussion) have family roots in Morocco, India and Pakistan, respectively, and started playing together in LA seven years ago. Their sound has a stripped down, elemental quality - no frills, no fuss, an unsettling, less-is-more, acoustic texture that owes as much to the trio's varied cultural roots as the argots of contemporary music.

Whereas The Necks have refined their improvised modus operandi over of quarter of a century, Dawn of Midi have the feel of a nascent unit, exploring intently the ways in which they can reach out and combine the raw possibilities offered by their instrumentation to fashion their own unique statement.

Israni's wayfaring plucked bass rhythms set the tone, Belyamani's unrepentantly dampened piano took up the deceptively simple figures and minimal pulses, and Naqvi overlaid pared-down percussion with the feel of discarded metal being reclaimed for the beauty of its trashy acoustics.

Lurking way in the background was a potpourri of South East Asian sound sources from tabla taps and Qawwali emotion, to early Hindi film soundtracks, informed, perhaps, by Steve Reich's concentrated rhythmic imperatives. The trio's shared single-mindedness and quest for clarity shaped the sequence. Still finding their way, Dawn of Midi are an intriguing proposition.

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