Black Midi were a phenomenon when they burst onto the scene in 2019. The once elusive and mysterious band have been projected into the spotlight since their debut album Schlagenheim amazed and confounded everyone. Their new album ‘Cavalcade’ is a progression on their debut.
‘John L’ puts us in fairly familiar territory with its super tight controlled chaos. It’s all there; the needly guitar licks, stop start sections and froggy pretentious vocals.
This, however, is more intricate and wilder than before with added discordant piano. It’s insanely mathy.
They hinted at a softer side on Schlagenheim and this comes out in abundance on the schmaltzy ‘Marlene Dietrich’. Geordie Greep’s vocals are a Sinatra croon and backed with sophisticates strings and calypso drums. It’s a huge curve ball with just a hint of weirdness.
Just when you almost forget who you’re listening to ‘Chondromalacia Patella’ brings us back into the chaos. Greep’s vocal shape shifting sees him strike a Shirley Bassey cum Jeff Buckley tone. Jagged guitars, fiddly bassline and tribal drumming become increasingly fidgetty with extreme stop starts. It finds a jazzy groove that is constantly tosses around and toyed with like a cat playing with its pray. At some points its like Lift To Experience playing at triple speed. Jaw dropping.
‘Slow’ which had already had an airing as a single has a jazzy, train like momentum. Incredibly drumming. The incredible drumming and noodly guitars are pinned down by a simple bassline. It’s akin to a hyper-speed Tortoise with added violent stabs. They also throw in a cheesy saxophone.
Black Midi offer up something altogether different with ‘Diamond Stuff’.
Sinister single high note picked guitars and piano are contrasted by the minimal bass. It builds very slowly as haunting extra notes creep in. Free drums gradually surface before locking into a busy shuffled beat. It eventually becomes euphoric, woozy and utterly dreamlike.
They revert back to the cheesy saxophone in the intro to ‘Dethroned’. There’s a deep build and release of tension with the airy drone and skittery snare and hat heavy drums. It’s heavily percussive and itchy. Like someone trying to scratch off a deluge of ants. Kind of like a manic Battles, with Yes vocals.
‘Hogwash and Balderdash’ is perhaps the higlight. It opens with some crazy warped bell sound and descends into mania, twisting and turning throughout. It’s like a distillation of everything this album offers all in one track, with added Mr Bungle madness.
In complete contrast to this chaos they drop back into crooner mode on the closer ‘Ascending Forth’.
It features more cheesy Buckley vocals and unexpectedly gentle picked acoustic guitars that bounce delicately off each other. As it becomes progressively more bombastic it introduces singing strings that transform it into a bizarre disney fantasy prog. It shares the intricacy of Joanna Newsom’s ‘Have One On Me’ going through several movements, only it’s completely deranged.
‘Cavalcade’ is and isn’t what I was expecting from Black Midi. At times it’s extremely self-indulgent and at others absolutely breathtakingly brilliant. The gleeful teasing with dynamics and deconstruction of forms means there’s never a dull moment.
You may enjoy this if you like: Battles, Jeff Buckley, Don Caballero