High Five: Ital
This is a special installment of our ongoing High Five feature series, insomuch that we've doubled its length to accommodate the two predominate styles of artist Daniel Martin-McCormick's work to date. With his bands Black Eyes and Mi Ami, the multifaceted musician has delved deep into the noisier realms of punk and hardcore, while the latest incarnation of Mi Ami and his new solo material, produced as Ital, mines the fertile landscape of house music and other electronic sounds—all of which Martin-McCormick eventually turns completely upside down for his tracks. So, we thought it would be interesting for Martin-McCormick to give us a bit of background on his two disparate loves: five dance tunes and five hardcore jams.
What he delivered to us is something of a classicist's primer for each genre. Both wildly popular and lesser known old-school hardcore bands fill out the second half of the list, which Martin-McCormick starts off with a handful of his favorite dancefloor inspirations. Through his descriptions, it's readily apparent how much of an impact both of these wildly different worlds have had on Martin-McCormick's varied projects, and how he cherishes them equally. Read on as the artist waxes nostalgic and ecstatic about all of his picks, below.
Reel by Real "Serene"
[This is] a master class in sliding chords and eerie, evocative pitch bending (something I have an avid interest in). Anthony "Shake" Shakir has the Midas touch to end 'em all, and this is an especially awesome example. [It's got] such a nice groove, [and is] so much more potent than it should be if you think about how simple it is. I wouldn't have made "Culture Clubs" without this one.
Armand Van Helden "You Don't Know Me"
Maria Minerva recently turned me on to this jam, and it's such a slammer! This belongs to a whole category of tracks for me: classic house HITS that I missed the first time around because I wasn't a kid in Europe and/or I wasn't paying attention. I was introduced to this particular genre with Inner City's "Pennies From Heaven" via the Dope Jams crew, as well as a crucial High Fantasy DJ set from Bobby Browser. (I walked in to a room of freaks bugging out to "Rhythm of the Night".) Then, I made my way through Bizarre Inc., After Hours, Snap. and the like. I suppose this brands me forevermore as an exponent of 'hipster house,' but fuck it. What's actually interesting is how, even though the song itself isn't familiar, the sound is extremely familiar. [It's] so potent and hits these pleasure centers I didn't even realize I had. Is it the '90s production? I guess that shit was just around when I was coming up, and feels like home, or something. Or it could just be that this song rules, and I'm just getting into it on that immediate level and over-thinking the whole thing.
Carl Craig vs. Deee-Lite "Heart Be Still"
Carl's remix work was especially influential in the making of Hive Mind, particularly the way he just turns tracks inside out and doesn't appear particularly beholden to genre or 'the club' or anything. Of course, his tracks still come out clubby, but you can feel this river of ideas flowing through him. There are a bunch that I can get down with—like the "Domina" Mind Mix, his Tori Amos remixes (oh, yes), his version of Theo Parrish's "Falling Up," [his remix of] "Poor People Must Work" (the skipping vox…)—but this is the one I especially geeked out on. The "hold me back hold me back hold me back back hold me back hold me back back back back back" part... Fucking ecstatic.
Pam Todd & Gold Bullion Band "Making Love"
I had some of the most intense musical experiences driving around DC summer nights in my parents' car, jamming a mixtape I had just made on a trip to NYC with this opening Side B. Fuck, hearing it now, I just wanna lose it, turn that shit up, way, way up. This is some of the most relatable, emotional, awe-inspiring music ever made. That the lyrics are bone stupid and the verses are particularly clunky only serves to fucking EXPLODE the chorus into a torrential outpouring of joy and yearning. Ughsdfmkld...
When KDJ is on his A-game, he's kinda the platonic ideal of house, except also so much more. One major point of interest for me regarding house and techno is how, being so non-narrative and sonically abstract, they can successfully cultivate deep emotional impact despite the lack of clear, narrated emotional space. A mournful country song (for example) will transport the listener to memories of heartbreak and loneliness, and massage those sore spots in a way that's both pleasurable and painful. But what's the mood supposed to be here? It's spooky and sexual, but, more than anything, mercurial. Why the radio clips are so satisfying is beyond me, but there they are. This track never fails.
The violence, speed, and destructiveness of hardcore are usually cited as the logical progression from punk's buzzsaw-ification of classic rock & roll tropes, but that's not what's important. What's important about hardcore is that it's fucking hard, a cleansing, pummeling bath of flames that clears the air of all the bullshit your parents, teachers, bosses, society, and everyone else feeds you. It speaks truth to power. And it's an especially ugly, scary, and very real truth at that: That we feel trapped, bitter, spiteful, and are ready to fucking kill. Or at least that's the idea. I was never 100% committed to hardcore because, by the time I started going to shows ('98/'99), it had become an orthodoxy just like any other, with a lot of bogus dudes in funny black hoodies and a lot of bands like Converge and Cave In and shit like that. There's still great groups out there (Double Negative got me psyched in 2011), but overall my tastes veer towards the early, fuming, skin-peeling shit, mostly.
Black Flag "Rise Above"
OK, let's be real here. There's a reason I started playing music, and it's Black Flag, no two ways about it. I always thought being in a band was for 'other' people, musicians and such, this rare breed or something. Then one day when I was 14, I went into a Tower Records and started reading the display copy of Henry Rollins' Get in the Van, his road diaries from the Flag years. Stories of going on tour in the UK, having piss thrown on you, fighting skins, living under police surveillance in LA, playing, like, 200 shows in a year, and drinking a whole pot of Dunkin' Donuts coffee blew my mind so hard that I immediately decided I wanted to start a band and tour for the rest of my life. Pretty much nothing has changed. This clip is the best I could find on YouTube. I wish they still had that one of Rollins bashing the dude's head in. I think it got taken down.
Bad Brains "Banned in DC"
Best band ever? Probably. I love how uplifting it is, but still punishing, too. I got to see them do the first Soul Brains reunion show in '99. They opened with "Attitude," and, surprise surprise, the place fucking exploded. HR was so high, I crowd surfed, yeah.
Gorilla Biscuits "No Reason Why"
I don't even really like this band, but, for some reason, this song is deeply ingrained in my psyche, to the point where, 12 years after getting rid of the 7", I still catch myself singing the lyrics walking down the street. The breakdown sounds like No Doubt, but hey. NY crewcore was never really my shit, but I did dabble early on. The mob energy is so crazy, especially when they're all just looking like a pack of crazed athletic bros. I like how positive it is, a bit like a rave or something.
Young Ginns "Score"
A killer feedback squall from Tim Green, this has some serious Unwound-goes-Void thing happening (they even cover "Time to Die"). I love the vocals, just like... Fuck it, man. I listened to their collected works a LOT in high school.
Die Kreuzen "Rumors"
This band was a recent discovery for me, actually, but what a fucking band. I never really got into too much of the Touch and Go output, but how can you deny this shit? "Rumors" especially has that pitch-perfect murderous scream thing cooking. So good. I'd say their first record rivals Void's side of the split in ferocity and kill-everything immediacy. There, I said it.