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Between paydays, Martin-McCormick was gigging steadily with Mi, which began in 2006 and is still an ongoing concern; the same year, he started messing around with beats. "I started just doing it for fun," he says, but he soon grew more serious—in large part because dance music, which had dead-ended both commercially and creatively in the mid '00s, had begun to surge again, thanks to the creative energy being cooked up in Berlin, where a large number of techno's movers and shakers had moved.
"I remember in 2006, you would go to Amoeba [Records], and it was just tons of [German techno labels] Cadenza and Perlon minimal stuff," he says. "There was definitely some awesome shit. It felt weird that it was all from Europe. It was this weird feeling. It just felt so far away. In one sense, that doesn't matter, but in another sense, there is something about this music tailor-made to a set of concerns that aren't yours. You lack that pride thing. You feel second-tier or something like that."
That changed in 2008, when Martin-McCormick heard the Detroit house producer Omar-S, whose sound was both roughed-up and soulful and whose attitude is captured best by the title of his 2011 album on FXHE: It Can Be Done, but Only I Can Do It.
"It was, 'Fuck, yes,'" Martin-McCormick says. "Omar-S was all the parts of this thing that I like transferred to this punk-ass American vibe. That was the big tipping point where I was like, 'OK, it's not all just espresso-sipping house. There's some fucking raw shit here, too, that does all the things I like about that so much better.'"
Martin-McCormick began to get serious about his tracks. In January 2010, he made a New Year's resolution to release a 12-inch by the end of the year. "I want these to be viable as something you could DJ," he says. "About midyear, Amanda [Brown] from 100% Silk wrote me: 'I want to start this dance label. Do you want to do a record?'" Martin-McCormick wrote back: "Funny enough, I have some tracks."
"I basically founded the record label around a lot of the conversations we had," says Brown, who also co-founded the L.A. label Not Not Fun. She had been friendly with Mi Ami from their shows at punk venue the Smell. "I ran the name by him and everything." (She also adds: "He definitely wears Bob Marley shirts a lot. I've seen him in other things, of course, but he's got a few." She laughs and says, "They look good.")
"I didn't think I was going to get any reception," Martin-McCormick says of the Ital 12-inches on 100% Silk. "I thought it was going to be this little vanity project or something—basically, people who are into the band and also into dance music would be like, 'cool,' because I've seen a lot of stuff like that: Excepter side projects; there was an Animal Collective one, I think—things where people go for it with a techno thing, but it doesn't have any weight in that world."
To both Martin-McCormick and Brown's surprise, 100% Silk gained dance-world cachet. Remember Scuba's DJ-Kicks mix CD from earlier? Martin-McCormick is on it, with a track he'd made as Sex Worker for Not Not Fun—a new version of Corona's 1994 dance-pop hit, "The Rhythm of the Night."
"It flips a classic piece of dance cheese on its head into a lo-fi, almost sleazy, desperate-sounding cry for help," Scuba says via e-mail. "Somehow, it makes perfect sense."
Emboldened by the attention, Martin-McCormick approached London label Planet Mu. Originally the vanity imprint of Mike Paradinas, a/k/a µ-Ziq (µ = "mu"), Planet Mu has become one of the most consistent and highly respected contemporary dance labels—and one of the few that focuses on albums rather than singles. "[100%] Silk was doing mostly 12-inches," Martin-McCormick explains, "but I also felt kind of like 'go big, or go home' a little bit."
He has clearly had a change of mind since: Decade, the new Mi Ami album, comes out on 100% Silk on March 20. "Mi Ami is its own thing for sure," says Brown, who praises Martin-McCormick's "unique voice and lyrics" and drummer Damon Palermo's "sense of timing." It's congruent with Hive Mind, though the two don't sound much alike: Mi Ami bends toward DIY rock-with-electronics.
Something of that band feel carries over even to a solo project like Ital. "It's not that often that you encounter the looseness and dynamic 'liveness' in the sort of demos I get," Paradinas says via e-mail. "It sounds like he is performing the tracks there and then, even though they are just programmed to sound like that."
That in-the-moment sensibility was a large part of Hive Mind's making as well. "Each track is in response, engaging with the last one," says Martin-McCormick, who programmed Hive Mind's songs in their recorded sequence. "To me, it has a very distinct feel from the other 12-inches and is consistent throughout. It was made to order."
Martin-McCormick created "Floridian Void" on a train trip home from Toronto. "It felt a little bit like poufy-scarf, you know? Scandinavian," he says. "I felt it should be darker, have more teeth than the way I had started it, which was a little too effervescent. Then I did the 'Privacy Settings' joint and felt like I need to get out of this dark zone. It started off dark and then got darker, and when it reached this ambient track, I decided we need to come out of this. I remember thinking when I was making the track 'Israel,' the chords were sort of washing up on the beach."