Posts Tagged ‘Schlagenheim’

Black Midi

What does the future of guitar music hold? The answer might very well lie with London band Black Midi and their bracing, unpredictable approach to rock.

 For those still hungry for prog complexity and art-rock innovation in their post-punk, seeing the debut LP from London’s black midi, Schlagenheim, appearing on more than a couple of year-end lists in guitar-starved 2019 should offer a glimmer of hope. Singer/guitarist Geordie Greep rips the mic like the reckless demon lovechild of Mike Patton and Grace Jones, while his mates (guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin, bassist/keyboardist Cameron Picton and eight-armed drummer Morgan Simpson) expand on time signatures straight out of Larks’ Tongues in Aspic for, like, tUnE-yArDs fans with a nostalgic affinity for Fugazi’s Steady Diet of Nothing. And this is just album one.

“Of Schlagenheim” showcases just how much Simpson captains this band’s every manoeuver from behind the kit. The quasi-title cut drives the descent into madness from Roxy Music cool to full-throttle Mr. Bungle chaos without hitting the brakes for over six minutes.

None of the group’s four members are of drinking age in the United States, and they’ve been an active unit for hardly two years. But they’ve already thrilled listeners across the globe with the sonic flag they’ve planted at the intersection of noise, post-punk, prog and krautrock. Freewheeling one moment and strapped into a monstrous groove the next, Black Midi have been known to set stages alight with incendiary performances. It’s no wonder they became the talk of the town thanks to live videos and gigs.

Could they be the best thing since the Klaxons or Bloc Party but the band have arrived. Black Midi! The student art rock band are bringing a new youthful energy and slight of malice back to the arena of post-indie inspired alternative guitar and synth music. They make this overtly known from the start with the supercharged opener that is “953”, introducing an album that is said to have laid down eight of the record’s nine tracks in just five days. Drums are fast and skittering, rhythms are dancey and guitars keep it Madchester jangley. “Speedway” (is that a wry Prodigy reference?) is among the album’s highlights alongside the punk-funky “bmbmbm” and the short but trippy “Years Ago”. With a 100 per cent backing by UK music institution Rough Trade: meet this generation’s newest sensation.

The energy of a Black Midi performance is impossible to capture in recording, vocalist/guitarist Geordie Greep says So, they don’t try. Last month, they released their debut album, Schlagenheim, which was produced by Dan Carey of indie label Speedy Wunderground. Its German title translates to something like “hitting home”, which is funny for a record that revels in zig-zagging between tempos, riffs and entire styles – but also an apt way to sum up the impact Black Midi have already made on the world of rock.

Black Midi managed to ascend to nigh-mythical status in their home country with barely any online presence and barely more recorded material. Then they hit Stateside, and it all made sense. Their live show is a spectacle to behold, a roiling mass of grooves and riffs and beats mutating and exploding off in a million different directions. And with their debut album Schlagenheim, they successfully managed to get that electric anything-is-possible feeling down on wax. No matter how many times you listen, their songs never fail to surprise.

Black Midi at Union Pool

The phrases “avant-garde improvisational noise rock” and “hot new buzz band” don’t often show up next to each other in the same sentence. But they’re difficult to avoid when discussing London’s Black Midi, an adventurous group that’s somehow broken through over the last couple years to become one of the most hyped acts in the U.K.  despite (or perhaps because of) a sound tailor-made to challenge and bewilder listeners in its prog-punk weirdness.

The indescribable Londoners just hasn’t been the same. Seems like Black Midi dropped a single utterly unlike anything found on their baffling debut from earlier this year, blending banjo and post-rock crescendos with totally  spoken word on a song with the more Carrey-wary title “7-eleven.” Following “Talking Heads” as a very reasonable alt take from the album Schlagenheim, “7” is a bizarre interpretation of Americana.

Black Midi’s excellent debut, Schlagenheim — released last year on Rough Trade Records, the iconic label that signed the Smiths and the Strokes — was nominated for the Mercury Prize, and they followed it with a mostly sold out 21-date American tour. “We intended our first show to be our last, so the whole band has been a surprise,” says Black Midi singer-guitarist Geordie Greep. “You’ve got to keep it relative.

Greep and drummer Morgan Simpson bonded over their shared love of jazz fusion, especially John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra; bassist-keyboard player Cameron Picton is a fan of West African highlife and Congolese soukous; guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin was partial to classic rock and Japanese noise bands like the Boredoms. Nearly all those elements would soon show up in the band’s sound.

UK math rock breakouts Black Midi have shared a bonus track from this year’s Schlagenheim, which the band has performed live in the past under the name “Cameron’s Song.” It’s a bit more spacious than the other songs on the record, almost leaning in post-rock territory.

As for where the band’s music is heading, Greep says whatever they put out next will be “unrecognizable” from what they’ve done so far, somewhat elusively promising something “more complicated but more simple, more clever, more subtle.”

“As individuals we challenge ourselves to try new things,” adds Simpson. “We’re always trying to find new ways to feel uncomfortable.”

 

When a Black Midi song blares, it’s like an impossible mountain climb—as soon as you find a ledge to grasp, it’s an electrifying triumph, but once you’ve gripped it, it crumbles off and you’re left hanging above a frightening abyss. With Black Midi, it’s all about the pursuit. You’re on a mission to find a more bewildering moment than the last. Their unconventional time signatures, breakneck guitars, propulsive grooves, Geordie Greep’s eccentric vocals and Morgan Simpson’s exceptionally agile drumming results in these devious, indeterminate rock squalls that make them so enamoring. Following a much-hyped run at this year’s South By Southwest, Black Midi are unleashing their debut album, “Schlagenheim”, via Rough Trade Records on June 21st. It’s misshapen, unpredictable, and at times murky, other times freakishly precise. It’s an experimental rock carousel with both a charming craftiness and menacing grandiosity. When Black Midi were on tour in Paris. they spoke about the band’s songwriting process with Geordie Greep, their slippery sound and the polarizing reactions to their music.

It may be hard to write about, but Schlagenheim is a record you feel more so than anything else. Case in point: First track “953” features one of the hardest hitting lead guitar riffs in recent memory, an opening salvo that makes you want to drop everything. Within mere seconds of hitting play on their debut album, Geordie Greep and Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin make their case as two of our most inventive contemporary guitarists, all while you try your hardest to keep time with a beat that will still elude you after 10 listens. There’s a high barrier to entry for Schlagenheim, a record by a band who refuses to meet you halfway. Pedantic and pretentious all the way through, Schlagenheim showcases why black midi are generationally great instrumentalists despite our inability to follow what they’re doing and why. Schlagenheim is like Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica in this way—it doesn’t always sound aurally pleasing, and it’s often tough to keep up, but it rewards those who try. By the end of “Ducter’s” anarchic pandemonium, you won’t know what hit you, but you’ll find yourself quickly returning to “953” for another go around of an album that showcases some of the most talented musicians around, coalescing behind an experimental, genre-less and extremely noisy sound to exceptional results. Schlagenheim is beyond weird. Schlagenheim is a legitimate one of a kind record. Schlagenheim is a masterpiece.

album ‘Schlagenheim’ is out now: