DAWN OF MIDI at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall, Saturday, May 28. Rating: NNNN
Can music be thoroughly engrossing when almost entirely free of melody? Dawn of Midi prove that it can be. The Brooklyn instrumental trio’s second album, Dysnomia, is an exercise in stunning polyrhythmic experimentation made even more fascinating by the fact that it often sounds electronic but is completely acoustic. No effects pedals or amplifiers to be seen.
Watching it performed live, then, was a demystifying treat. At Koerner Hall as part of the Royal Conservatory’s 21C Festival of new music, pianist Amino Belyamani tapped away at a single note for long minutes while stretching his left hand inside the grand piano to alter the strings’ resonance. Aakaash Israni’s pizzicato double bass, the source of brief, fleeting melodies that often sounded like fluttering bird wings, would enter in a disorienting place to pluck out an entirely different beat. Then Qasim Naqvi’s loud drums – or sometimes just a bass drum – would take over, establishing something close to a foundation.
It was all very cerebral, so when the three players occasionally came together in a synchronized groove, the effect was phenomenal. Also notable was the emphasis on lengthy repetition, something most musicians use loops to achieve nowadays. You began to appreciate the small, human fluctuations in tempo and volume. We are not perfect machines, yet capable of great creations. Most of the crowd was on its feet at the end.
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