Perhaps this is because Dawn Of Midi came to their sound through a more roundabout route. Pianist Amino Belyamani, double bassist Aakaash Israni and drummer Qasim Naqvi met while studying at Cal Arts, and have an album of thoughtful free-improvisation under their belts (2010's First). They come from India, Morocco and Pakistan respectively, and have said that the traditional music of their home countries was significant to the direction their sound would subsequently take. On Dysnomia—47 minutes of rigorously composed music that took the group two years to perfect—Belyamani plays with his piano strings dampened, tapping out hypnotic patterns reminiscent of instruments like the kora and ardin. Naqvi's drum setup, cymbal-less save for a hi-hat, produces a rich, oaky thud not necessarily associated with the modern kit. The trio's dizzying cross-rhythms recall techno, yes, but also much older kinds of trance-inducing rhythmic music.
Still, there are aspects of Dysnomia that are very modern. In some respects it plays more like a mix than a conventional album. Each track is seamlessly blended with the next—an extraordinary feat given that all of the music is played live—and structures follow slow, linear contours, offering little by way of conventional melody, verse or chorus. As with a well-paced mix CD, the album's first moment of impact doesn't come until about 18 minutes in, when the tense holding-pattern of "Atlas" suddenly bursts into life. Some tracks, like the chugging "Nix," feel like they're there solely as transitions—the trio's version of a DJ tool, ferrying us smoothly from A to B.
It's easy to see why Erased Tapes, a label known for its electronic-crossover acts, decided to throw their weight behind the project. But what makes Dysnomia particularly satisfying is that it doesn't fall into the traps that other records on Erased Tapes do: a rarefied neo-classical tone, an over-emphasis on wafting melody over rhythm and timbre. Moments that suggest such a direction—the gothic "Moon," say—are the album's weakest. Otherwise, Dysnomia offers an unusual thrill, but an undeniably visceral one.