Named after an obscure Japanese music genre black midi is a band formed by a group of RDR2, Metal Gear Solid, GTA-loving loving youngsters in 2016. In just a few years they’ve found their niche, released their debut on May 14th and are taken the world of ‘post-punk’ by storm as we speak.
Although punkers stated that there music has passed away since the late 70s their genre truly died in the 90s when the principles of kicking against the mainstream world where completely undermined by bands like Green Day and Blink-182. Punk was left for dead ever since. However, since a few years millennials have started to pick up the shards and are piecing them together as they see fit. Songs of Praise from Shame is a nice recent example of this movement but still colors between the lines.
Another London-based band, black-midi, also did some crate digging but wants to be more than just the next Gen Y punk outfit. Geordie Greep (vocals, guitar), Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin (guitar), Cameron Picton (bass) and Morgan Simpson (drums) are willing significantly to push the boundaries taking the genre into uncharted territory where avantgarde acts such as King Krule, Iceage, Deerhoof or Dirty Projectors also are shaking the fences. It’s difficult to pinpoint what black midi is all about, so let’s just say they aim to redefine punk from the shards they found and with Schlagenheim once more prove that blood is thicker than water.
Schlagenheim is a 43 minute energetic, challenging album of the explosive kind. With ‘953’ Greep et al immediately set the tone and deliver the message that they are not only about rehashing old tunes. ‘953’ starts fast and chaotic but eventually shifts down when Greep placidly start singing at the halfway point. This moment is used by the rest of the band catch up on their breaths so that they can end even faster by pummeling out noise rock with a thick underlying riffage. ‘953’ song structure is one that you will hear more often on the album, yet on top of that many tracks are also richly ornated by detailed guitar hooks or light droning.
Waywardly black midi cuts themselves free from standards, thus creating their own path through the album. Sometimes nice melodies are heard like on ‘Reggae’ on which Greep vocally jumps around while the band creates a punk-cabarete atmosphere around him while ‘Speedway’ is the monotone other side of post-punk. After only hearing two or three tracks we can already conclude that black midi is very versatile and effortlessly runs around between the range of The Dresden Dolls and Suuns.
Schlagenheim’s dynamics between order and chaos is what the album primarily delivers. On the more monotonous displays Greep’s cutting vocals and Simpson’s downbeat drumming are put in the centre. Apart from the one noted ‘bmbmbm’, ‘Of Schlagenheim’ and closer ‘Ducter’ are probably the nicest examples. On these tracks black midi start out relatively quiet but eventually build up to a massive, wall of noise. Especially on ‘Ducter’ the band really changes from slow to fast, fast to slow and so in great fashion. The faster improv points on Schlagenheim are most appealing to us. On ‘Near DT, MI’, Greep aggressively sings “dead in the water”, referring to Flint water crisis while the band is mathy, noisy and wonderfully wiry. Schlagenheim is full of these explosions but also has its danceable moments.
The 8 minute midpiece ‘Western’ is the most problematic track on the album. The band shift from through different sections. In meandering almost proggy sections Greep takes us on a LSD-like trip to the fictional town of Schlagenheim. If it wasn’t for the short lived heavier sections here this song would have dozed us off.
The sudden rise of black midi from the London underground to the international stage is exactly what 2019 needs. Schlagenheim is unquiet search of four very talented youngsters who seem determined to explore beyond the conventional. It is clear that black midi’s music will sound completely different in a year or two so it will be an essential band to follow if you’re up for some experimenting. For now Schlagenheim is a great debut record we will spin regularly while the year progresses and we recommend you do the same.
Label: Rough Trade, 2019
- 953 (5:21)
- Speedway (3:18)
- Reggae (3:29)
- Near DT, MI (2:20)
- Western (8:08)
- Of Schlagenheim (6:25)
- Bmbmbm (4:57)
- Years Ago (2:35)
- Ducter (6:42)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 150719