Black Midi


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Schlagenheim (2019), 6.5/10
Cavalcade (2021), 5/10
Hellfire (2022), 5/10
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London's quartet Black Midi (vocalist Geordie Greep, guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin, bassist Cameron Picton and drummer Morgan Simpson) debuted with Schlagenheim (Rough Trade, 2019) which seemed to stage a revival of post-rock of the 1990s. It opens with 953, that sounds like a medley of Captain Beefheart and Sonic Youth, except to transition almost immediately into a Family-like soul-rock litany. Atonal, irregular pieces like Speedway and Ducter evoke Slint's post-rock mixed with Canterbury-school prog-rock. The more visceral Near DT - MI sounds like Unwound with a coda of swirling dance-punk. The eight-minute Western is their take on the pop ballad with a bit of Frank Zappa-esque insanity, a Nashville-ian banjo and Robert Fripp-ian guitar. The declamation and the impetus make Of Schlagenheim sound like a syncopated version of Pere Ubu. Some of the songs are simply trivial (for example, the spoken-word Bmbmbm, which was also their first single). The vocals are the weakest element, the drumming probably the strongest (notably in the otherwise pointless Reggae). The album is rather confused and at times annoyingly dejavu.

They also released the singles Crow's Perch (2019), Talking Heads (2019), Ducter (2019), 7-Eleven (2019), and Sweater (2020).

Cavalcade (2021) is an inferior work. The prog-rock frenzy John L and the neurotic jazz-rock jam Slow are lazy and facile affairs. The one substantial piece, the emphatic ten-minute ballad Ascending Forth, borders on folk music, on the Broadway showtunes and on the neoclassical lied. It is the only reason for this album to exist.

Hellfire (Rough Trade, 2022), produced by Marta Salogni, boasts bombastic arrangements and suffers from urban neurosis. Sugar/Tzu displays the swagger of a Broadway musical. Eat Men Eat is emblematic of their endlessly mutating song structures, but the longer pieces (Still and The Race Is About to Begin) tend to be a bit too chaotic. Welcome to Hell is more confused than theatrical, but ultimately both. 27 Questions is a simple vaudeville skit, but at least a cohesive one, and, again, sounds like the closing of a Broadway musical.