Despite attending the BRIT School, the much-hyped Black Midi are nothing like the chart-focused artists like Adele, Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis and Rizzle Kicks it has been criticised for churning out over the years. In fact, there’s not really anything out there quite like the London quartet at all.
Dozens of bands have been tossed around in recent months trying to offer reference points for their sprawling sound, with King Crimson, Deerhoof, The Mars Volta, This Heat, Battles, Gnod, Talking Heads, Shellac and Slint just some of those names.
The buzz surrounding Black Midi began soon after they started playing live at The Windmill in Brixton just two years ago. Word about them quickly spread across the internet, particularly after their fantastic KEXP set back in January not long after they had signed with Rough Trade.
On the day they released their long-awaited, Dan Carey-produced debut album Schlagenheim, Black Midi brought their thrilling experimental rock amalgamation to Phase One in Liverpool for a sold out show. 15 minutes later than billed and with drummer Morgan Simpson sporting a 1998-2000 Liverpool home shirt, they launched into their set with the angular assault that is ‘Near DT, MI’.
Next up was ‘Talking Heads’ which was released as a 12″ single but doesn’t feature on their debut, it sounds like a sped-up version of the band it’s presumably named after. Given just how hard and fast Simpson plays his drums, it wouldn’t be long before the Liverpool shirt was removed.
Following the awkward pop of ‘Speedway’ which saw bassist Cameron Picton taking over vocal duties, they blasted out arguably their finest moment with the frenetic and shifting ‘953’ after which the temperature in the room shot up a couple more degrees.
For those who hadn’t found the time to give the new album a spin on during the day it may have been their first experience of tracks such as the math-rock madness of ‘Reggae’ and the lengthy prog-inspired, partly finger-picked ‘Western’, both of which merge seamlessly into their rollercoaster of a set.
Geordie Greep’s vocals are somewhat unconventional, blending a more demented David Byrne with Mark E. Smith in a sort of sing-speak-scream psychobabble style. He’s undoubtedly at his weirdest on the challenging ‘bmbmbm’ as he repeatedly jibber-jabbers “she moves with a purpose” over a one-note bass riff and blasts of noise reminiscent of Salford collective Gnod.
While their debut album is bags of fun, Black Midi have to be seen live. It’s amazing think that they’re are only just out of their teens, with Greep suggesting they’ll be almost “unrecognisable” in a couple of years time. As good as they are now though, they’re far from the finished article. It will certainly be fascinating watching them evolve.
Schlagenheim is available now via Rough Trade