Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Black Midi triumphantly return with 'Cavalcade'

Black Midi stood on a high plateau after their debut release ‘Schlagenheim’ saw them dubbed as Britain's “best new guitar band” with an album of pure unadulterated noise in addition to a Mercury prize nomination.

The band became poster boys for the strange algorithm-generated genre of ‘Chamber Psych’, which flashed up constantly on my Spotify end-of-year tally as a most listened to new genre, even though I had no clue what it was. ‘Schlagenheim’ was a fierce welcome from a band with great intentions for pushing sound to the next limit. 

The band chose respected producer, Dan Carey, the man behind the launch pad label Speedy Wunderground and champion of similar ilk groups such as Squid and Black Country, New Road to produce their follow-up which is released on Rough Trade.       

Second albums are often tricky to follow up with when given that sort of acclaim, how far could unfiltered guitar music go after a record like ‘Schlagenheim’? The answer - onto a whole new planet. On Cavalcade, Black Midi takes a new road that is less chaotic than Schlagenheim, but just as creative and fun. “John L” begins the album just where they left off with an orchestral cacophony of strings and storming drums in addition to lead vocalist Geordie Greep’s moaning Sprechgesang. The improvisatory element of the band evolves in the opening track, taking sharp turns into free-jazz, math rock and prog hinting more of the same as Schlagenheim. 

However, this hint is pushed aside on the following track ‘Marlene Dietrich’ 'where a uniquely flamenco inspired track is formed and where Greep’s evangelical groans are substituted with a warm melodic ballad about the cabaret singer. This is a nice deviation from the penetrating noise that characterises the main body of Black Midi’s work, it is a risky ballad that doesn’t feel oldly misplaced on an album like ‘Cavalcade’ and sits in the crooning oeuvre alongside Scott Walker and Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis. “Slow” sees a slight revert to noisy experimental rock, but with a mellow difference, The improvisational guitars are toned down in favour of melodic and winding riffs. The overall feel is one of a calm sea before the storm, reflected by the raucous saxophone. 

Whereas ‘Cavalcade’ witnesses a change in direction of the band’s influences, what definitely remains strong is the instrumental talent that each of the four bring to the band, this is particularly true of drummer, Morgan Simpson, who provides excellent backbeats on all eight tracks, particularly on ‘Dethroned’ and ‘Diamond Stuff’ where he provides swinging chops and intricate beats in difficult time signatures. The guitar elements also excel further on the record particularly on ‘Chondromalacia Patella’ with an injection of jangly razor-sharp riffs synchronous to Simpson’s well-crafted backbeat. The track oozes post rock influences like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Swans. 

The final track, ‘Ascending Forth’, is the most expansive, clocking at almost ten minutes (9”54) and is the most theatrical with big band elements but with the texture of prog-rock, ‘Blackstar’ era Bowie and late era Talk Talk. It is a triumphant opus to an album that breeds a new soul of creativity; one that is more moving than noisy. The album demonstrates Black Midi's perplexing philosophy as a band hinged on experimentation and cinematics.

‘Cavalcade’ explores Black Midi’s lust for experimentation and obsession for the possibilities of sound. To describe them as “Britain’s best new guitar band” may be overzealous, but it is a justifiable label when you examine the lengths they go to in achieving an original sound.

Lewis Oxley


 Image: Calvacade Official Album Cover 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment Here;