Release Date: Jun 21, 2019
Record label: Rough Trade
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Adele, Jessie J and Amy Winehouse are amongst a host of stars to have already emerged from Croydon's BRIT School For Performing Arts and Technology, but the school’s latest alumni in the spotlight are nothing like what's gone before. Black Midi, consisting of Geordie Greep (vocals, guitar), Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin (vocals, guitar), Morgan Simpson (drums) and the final addition Cameron Picton (vocals, bass) - who, in true rock n' roll style, joined the band on the morning of their first ever live performance with little rehearsal time left - have seen journalists struggling to pigeonhole them since their formation, but it's mission impossible as a truckload of genre references pop up, only to disappear as quickly as they came. Fascination with the band by what seems like the entire music industry might never have happened had it not been for The Windmill pub/music venue in Brixton.
Rattling with unease and emitting outward with inexplicable energy, London's very own black midi has arrived with a bang--and to all their detractors and "industry plants" conspirators--they are certainly here to stay. With a sound and lyrics that are uniquely manic and just plain weird, their live sets are even weirder. So weird that black midi quickly became one of the most hyped musical acts in recent memory after their KEXP performance last year.
What's in a name, anyway? The Talking Heads picked the most arbitrary, semiotically redundant thing they could think of when naming themselves, and it's apparent that tradition has continued, as the titles of the songs on black midi 's new album are officially 'embargoed' until the album is released. It makes sense, because track titles are mostly pointless, but title them they have, and reveal them we shall not. black midi is made up of Geordie Greep (vocals/guitar), Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin (vocals/guitar), Cameron Picton (vocals/bass), and Morgan Simpson (drums, and the band's not-so-secret weapon).
In January, KEXP uploaded a 26-minute video of four British kids positioned in a homey Icelandic hostel, stepping loosely and methodically through a handful of songs that now appear on black midi's debut album, Schlagenheim. Two things are immediately apparent while watching: Everyone in black midi looks approximately 8 years old and their drummer is an absolute legend. The performance is hypnotic, hair-raising, maybe a little irritating, and definitely out of time--a bunch of schoolboys producing something so staunchly learned, freeform, and anti-pop in an age when pop reigns supreme.
The following is a list of artists that came to mind while listening to Schlagenheim: Pavement, Polvo, Hella, Tera Melos, Alt-J, The Pyramids, Muse, This Heat, The Fall, White Lung, Pere Ubu, 13th Floor Elevators, Don Caballero, Idles, Liars, NEU!, Daughters, Deerhoof, Wire, Battles — you get the picture. black midi will get the usual targeting of any Rate Your Music aficionado for their undeniable usage of copy and paste (filtered through Photoshop), but the craft and unpredictably oozes off the record. Schlagenheim is about the riffs, that indelible meat of guitar rock.
London quartet Black Midi gained maximum buzz with a minimal presence in the press or online. Shortly after graduating from the BRIT School, the performing arts institute that also served as an incubator for artists like Adele and Ed Sheeran, the members of Black Midi began attracting attention through their untethered live shows and a slow release of new material. Before debut album Schlagenheim arrived, the band existed largely on word-of-mouth buzz and a reputation grown off of three or four songs.
There’s a raging fire at the core of Black Midi’s debut album, 'Schlagenheim'. The heat can be felt right from the off, with opener ‘953’ revealing itself as a cacophony of noise that’s as searing as it gets. The rest of the album is a slippery, sprawling thing that's both urgent and lithe - it perfectly captures Black Midi's indefinable sound.
What the fuck is this? Black Midi's "Speedway" kicks off on a drum roll, then repeats a single guitar note endlessly, the sound starting strong and fading out like a doorbell under siege by a drunken ex late at night. It's really just one note for the longest time, with drummer Morgan Stanley executing complicated rattling patterns on the snare and singer Geordie Greep channeling a dream-like art-rock in a chant that juts off brief, disconnected phrases, yet far from boring. A sense of something about to happen ratchets up the tension like a torque wrench, inch by inch by inch.
black midi's reputation goes before them. A stunning, seismic live force, their intensely improvisatory approach and supreme technical musicianship allows them to meld together post-punk, speed metal, avant jazz, and more, into the molten shards of metallic sound. Indeed, it's a curious feeling settling down to absorb debut album 'Schlagenheim'. Live, this is a perpetual torrent of sounds, difficult to discern and almost impossible to fully analyse; on record these are actual songs, bizarre but recognisable compositions with their own dazzling internal logic.