The tremulous name on the lips of those ‘in the know’, black midi are at the forefront of the head of the spear of modern ‘guitar’ music, and not without reason. Musically they have carved a huge black crater in the landscape with their harsh slabs of ‘difficult’ jazz inspired math(s) rock, post rock, whatever rock. Their album Schlagenheim is an angry, confused mass of disparate energy, taking in influences from Henry Cow and This Heat to Sun Ra and King Crimson, brought together with such force and dynamism by the drummer Morgan Simpson, who hits the stratosphere when they play live. The only let down being the half spoken, half garbled vocals, which I’m afraid at times remind me of those 80’s shuddernauts Huang Chung.
‘John L’ is the first release from their new album Cavalcade and is slightly more together than previous stuff. The addition of violin brings to mind the Mahavishnu Orchestra in places, and musically it’s as good as anything they’ve so far released, it’s exciting stuff, led by some fantastic drumming from Simpson, but once again the vocals let it down. Admittedly there’s no attempt at singing here, just a story recited, but in a strange American style accent which kind of reminds me of Pere Ubu’s ‘Lonesome Cowboy Dave’.
I can recall an interview with Robert Fripp once where he was observing that most of his contemporaries were desperately searching for their note, whilst he had found his. It seems to me that most of the current crop of young ‘guitar’ bands like black midi, Squid and Black Country, New Road are still searching… and long may they continue.
‘John L’ is taken from the forthcoming album Cavalacde due for release via Rough Trade on 28th May. black midi play London’s Alexandra Palace on 11th November – tickets are onsale here.
Review by Andrew Wood