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BLACK MIDI

RIO/Avant-Prog • United Kingdom


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black midi biography
black midi are a London based band who burst on the music scene in 2018 with an experimental post-punk avant jazz math rock combination with surprising virtuosity and edge for a bunch of musicians just out of high school. The band consists of Geordie Greep (vocals, guitar), Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin (vocals, guitar), Cameron Picton (vocals, bass guitar, synths) and Morgan Simpson (drums). Their name is derived from the Japanese music genre black MIDI.
They met at the BRIT performing arts and technology school located in Croydon. Initially as jam sessions for Greep, Kwasniewski-Kelvin & Simpson. Simpson was already recognized as an accomplished drummer, winning the Young Drummer Of The Year award in 2014.
Their first gig was at The Windmill in Brixton in 2017, which turned in a residency. In 2018 they released a cassette featuring songs from a Windmill performance with Damo Suzuki of CAN.
They were signed to Rough Trade and released their debut album, Schlagenheim, in 2019. The album was nominated for the 2019 Mercury Prize.
Prior to their second album, Cavalcade, Kwasniewski-Kelvin went on hiatus from the band for a mental health break.

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BLACK MIDI discography


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BLACK MIDI top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.97 | 72 ratings
Schlagenheim
2019
3.95 | 150 ratings
Cavalcade
2021
4.07 | 157 ratings
Hellfire
2022

BLACK MIDI Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.80 | 5 ratings
Live at KEXP
2019
5.00 | 1 ratings
Live on Canal St, NYC
2019
5.00 | 1 ratings
Black Midi Live in the USA
2020
4.00 | 1 ratings
Live Fire
2022

BLACK MIDI Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

BLACK MIDI Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 4 ratings
The Black Midi Anthology Vol. 1: Tales of Suspense and Revenge
2020

BLACK MIDI Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 5 ratings
Talking Heads / Crow's Perch
2019
2.28 | 6 ratings
Sweater / 7-Eleven
2020
4.43 | 7 ratings
John L / Despair
2021
3.00 | 1 ratings
Covercade
2021
3.33 | 3 ratings
Cruising
2021
3.96 | 5 ratings
Cavalcovers
2022

BLACK MIDI Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Hellfire by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.07 | 157 ratings

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Hellfire
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Is black midi's 'Hellfire' the best that 2022 had to offer? To put it plainly I will quote an online reviewer of the album whose words just resonated with me the most, and do in fact sum up my personal experience with the band's third studio offering: I had never felt so equally impressed and disgusted before in my life. Full stop. Hardly have any vocals sounded so corny and uncomfortable, since the days of the glorious Canterbury Scene. But there is an overarching trend that goes throughout the albums offered by the bands of the Windmill Scene - they become increasingly unlistenable.

'Hellfire' is a cavalcade of sounds (pun intended) that bombards the unprepared listener with an instrumental menace, topped by the hardly distinguishable lyrics, sang in a pretentious manner, often through spoken word. Despite the interesting and adventurous flamenco and jazz influences, the band intentionally and successfully blurs the line between music and noise. The playing is impressive by all means, but when an album becomes more painful than pleasurable to listen to, then this is a bad sign. Apart from this, 'Hellfire' is so emotionally shallow that one could hardly feel connected to any part of it, generally lost among the bull[&*!#] stories or the chaotic instrumental sections. I am generally confused by the record. Mostly messy.

 Hellfire by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.07 | 157 ratings

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Hellfire
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team

4 stars The title of that album tells you a bit of what to expect here, but it's not an album by a metal band, but by an avant-prog band that can incorporate in their own style music that it's not totally Prog. First, the vocalist can go on a frenetic pace with a voice that is sometimes between singing and talking. At other times he lowers his voice sounding almost like a crooner. One thing is sure, this band enjoys playing Jazz music with plenty of instrumentation. There is a Zappa influence in some songs that are obvious. Also, some short and heavy sections are integrated into their music which gives another dimension to their music. Also, those elements work well, especially the cool "Welcome to Hell" track that is easy to get hooked on. There is a sound coming from a big band orchestra with some busy drumming and a heavier passage. The singer can get loose by speeding up his pace so much that the musicians have trouble catching up. Some listeners could find that there is a bit of too much jazz at the end of that album, but I can only give credit to this band just for the way they craft their songs in a unique and a bit insane style that makes this album an enjoyable experience.
 Hellfire by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.07 | 157 ratings

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Hellfire
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Captain Midnight

5 stars black midi is one of the most original sounding prog acts to come out in the past few years, while I love prog and modern prog I can't disagree when people say they don't like modern prog such as Wobbler or Steven Wilson for they just emulate the sound of the 70s I personally don't mind it however I completely understand why someone wouldn't but as for black midi that isn't the case while yes there's clear King Crimson inspiration it sounds different at the same time bm fusing avant jazz with math rock and post punk gives it such a unique sound and they shine brightly on this album while both albums before this were amazing Hellfire is bm at their peak and I can't wait to see what they make next. As for the album you'll get great Avant Jazz Fusion Sugar/Tzu is by far one of the greatest prog songs ever made this album sounds like King Crimson, Cardiacs and Frank Zappa on drugs The Race Is About To Begin and 27 Questions are up there aswell The Race being a super fast schizophrenic sounding song and 27 Questions songs like if the song itself is falling apart I really can't explain how these songs sound you really need to listen to them yourself. The album has a very vaudeville approach to it's style this time around especially on the last three tracks, the album has very Captain Beefheart esque humor and a very big band feel to it and the album itself is (as much as i hate saying this) an experience, The Race Is About To Begin is one of the most intense songs I've ever heard to the point where I don't even know of this track can be played live, it quite literally sounds like if the genre black midi was rock music and then the more balled like tracks almost have a Scott Walker like quality to them literally my only problem with this album is that it's too short clocking in at 38 minutes when the average LP is about 45 I know it's small but i want more from this band so bad and I can't wait for LP4
 Hellfire by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.07 | 157 ratings

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Hellfire
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars black midi's musical evolution continues on Hellfire, a brutal prog trip through territory you might have previously glimpsed in the jazzier sections of Mr. Bungle's Disco Volante but which black midi have certainly claimed as their very own. With a dramatic, almost theatrical flair, it might even be a concept album, though you'd need to spend a good long time simmering in its murky depths to navigate what's going on here. Greep, Picton, and Simpson have really come into their own as composers and multi-insturmentalists; imagine three Mike Oldfields unleashed on a studio with full access to all the instruments they want to use and a big dose of PCP to get things hopping and you might end up in similar turf.
 Cavalcade by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.95 | 150 ratings

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Cavalcade
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Saxophone and keyboards make themselves felt more strongly on the second black midi album, accompanying a sonic shift from the noise-drenched math rock of their debut to an approach which resembles a slightly more math rock/avant-prog take on Mr. Bungle's Disco Volante at points. Unlike some experimental bands, black midi don't stint on the vocals either, with Geordie Greep and Cameron Picton sharing duties with performances which might not be conventionally stunning but certainly help add a lot of feeling to the proceedings, which might be the group's secret weapon. In a subgenre in which technical complexity can sometimes push out atmosphere and emotion, black midi manage to capture a frantic dose of both.
 Schlagenheim by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.97 | 72 ratings

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Schlagenheim
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The debut album by black midi at first sounds like an aggressive morass of noisy math rock - think rhythms and musicianship akin to math rock and textures and post-punk influences not too far from what the noise rock crowd like.

Listen closer, though, and it becomes apparent that their roots run deeper than that. After all, one of their earliest releases was extracts from a live performance backing none other than Damo Suzuki; deep within the rhythms of black midi's work is the motorik pulse which drove Krautrock units like Can.

As such, their subsequent evolution away from this sound into a more avant-prog style was signposted well in advance, the band showing their command of the history of experimental rock music from the start. The end result is an effort which will please adventurous math rock listeners and fans of the more aggressice end of Krautrock.

 Hellfire by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.07 | 157 ratings

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Hellfire
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by DangHeck
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Post-Punk Appearances Dismissed; Avant-Prog Crooners Ponder Eternal Fire

With my 'The List' getting way out of hand for far too long, it's no surprise I'm getting to the latest by UK's Black Midi nearly a year later (I have no real devotions leading me to prioritize one band over another, so I am indeed a fake fan haha). Following the release of their EP Cavalcovers, from a few months before in March '22, their third LP, Hellfire, was released to fairly positive criticism [and I can now see why], and it's certainly the hottest thing in their main discography according to our fellows here at PA. And can we give it up for a Prog band outputting a 10-song, 39-minute album?! Likewise, impressed to see the credits so filled out, so to speak; haven't seen this much individual involvement since Gentle Giant's potential magnum opus (my favorite) Acquiring the Taste (1971); even GG is outdone here. Regardless of how long it's been, I am absolutely stoked to jump on in.

Title track "Hellfire" starts off the record with Euro quirk. Geordie Greep delivers a truly crazed monologue-come-rap over the darkest Cabaresque accompaniment (somewhat circus-faire). This is truly a striking and remarkable opener. Acting as stark juxtaposition to the soft, jazz croon of "Sugar/Tzu"'s intro. The mix opens up and the pace is quickened; we're in for a treat, are we? I'm beaming. The rhythmic cacophony of the post-verse is unbelievably tense: no surprises yet, but ever-delighted by what Black Midi bring to the table. Collective genius, in my humble opinion. From the lightest quiet to hyper-focused [or chaotic] drama, this is a killer. Without skipping a single beat, "Eat Men Eat" begins with a sort of Latin-inspired drive, as Cameron Picton sings in (briefly) soft singer-songwriter tone. The strums and plucks of acoustic-classical guitar are delish, all while percussion thrusts us all forward. After a harsh crescendo, the middle of this Picton-led number reveals a psychedelic oasis, only to fall apart under the weight of increasing tension [Was it all just a mirage?]. I love the theme here. Lyrically, an Odyssey-like surrender to comforts and earthly delights which only result in an awful, unrelenting, infernal despair. The excited, inflammatory diatribe of a 'drunken captain' takes all the attention away, a curse of curses on 'Company A'. Wonderful, wonderful. Eclectic Prog recontextualized for Indie Rock? Not quite that simple.

Greep takes back the helm for a funnily upbeat number, "Welcome To Hell". Stylistically speaking, it made me think of New Wave and Funk Rock (many sections are very much reminiscent of Primus). Drummer extraordinaire Morgan Simpson in great part gives this track a great, danceable lilt; he even has a drum solo in the second minute(!). This reasonably 4-minute tune is dramatic and epic. All forms, styles and affects are confidently theirs [Y'all like Showtunes?]. Picton takes up the mic once more on the shockingly sweet "Still", a Country-Folk ballad(?), replete with (in order of their credits listing) accordion, lap steel, whip, harmonica, resonator guitar (what I thought was banjo, I guess), tambourine, handclaps, and violin. Handsome, bucolic, classic and randomly (still) British. And then right about 2:00, we get a brief rhythmic shift which is so modern [and relatively foreign territory for BM]. Their sudden shifts, consistent since their beginning, are so ear-catching and awe-inspiring. Really beautiful stuff in the third minute, softened with a Rhodes and an orchestral backing. Dare I say, this ending passage sounded to me like Star Wars. Like "Leia's Theme" could have begun there and I wouldn't have been surprised at all haha.

Interluding briefly as possible is "Half Time", a charming rapid-radio-tuning to a DJ's intro--with Radio Raheem referenced, from Do The Right Thing--for the next, "The Race Is About To Begin". We are alluded to Jazz, but moreso Traditional Pop and specifically Tin Pan Alley. Greep gives us more impassioned monologuing, honestly one of the things he's very good at, at least at face-value. The first thing I really think of here is, for lack of a better word, speed. Everything [in the first half] is hurried, balls-to-the-wall. Regardless, in a very classic sort of way, another epic number, simultaneously exploring different styles and dynamics as it morphs. Up next is "Dangerous Liaisons", the first track to not really be intrinsically tied to what came prior. Even so, nothing is out of place here. A much jazzier number, the waltzing music really flows with Geordie's poetic delivery of what seems like a deal with the Devil. This one light-Fusion Trad Pop?... Who cares? Beautiful stuff. Best time as ever to praise the saxophone on the album, here a tenor, throughout performed by Kaidi Akinnibi. Akinnibi has featured on Black Midi since Cavalcade, and apparently performs regularly with them live.

Continuing in this very old-school fashion, "The Defence" just swept me off my feet; I'm trying desperately to lower my brow haha. And this was only made more difficult by the lyrics. From what I can tell, this is pro-sex work(?), and I frankly have no other comments at this current time [Seriously, though, the lyrics throughout have been spectacular storytelling]. On second thought, though, I believe this is a Tony Bennett cover /s. Regardless, for the Trad Pop stylings throughout, this will surely polarize a few. The Eclectic Progging continues most assuredly soon enough, I assure you, on the dark finale, "27 Questions" [Is that the British version of the classic Questions game?... /s]. Come on everybody! It's Bang On The 88s Day! This manic state doesn't last, and we close out with a ridiculous, at-all-times rhetorical recitation of these 27 Questions. What we do love is actually tasteful materialism displayed in Prog. And I mean that haha. Thankfully, our song and our album end in a most disturbed manner. Praise be.

Hope y'all enjoy! Love this band. They never cease to impress and inspire.

After some internal deliberation, a rounded-up True Rate of 4.5/5.0. Their best yet.

 Cavalcovers by BLACK MIDI album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2022
3.96 | 5 ratings

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Cavalcovers
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by DangHeck
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I don't think it needs mentioned, but the absolute absurdity of an Avant-Punk-by-Avant-Prog group covering a famous KC song, an early Country Pop tune by Taylor Swift and a Captain Beefheart song all on a single release is dumbfounding... And yet! this is exactly the kind of diversity that I would want from a covers album. Like, who all are y'all into or pulling from? What will you, in this case, do with these disparate songs? On paper, it's awesome.

The aforementioned King Crimson song is none other than "21st Century Schizoid Man", a song I must admit I feel is very likely over-covered. But as is the challenge of 'the cover', will this appeal to someone checking out this artist potentially for the first time, a foot in the door to Black Midi in this case? In that same vein, really what I would think is the main point (somewhat weirdly to me) is that someone will know the song you're covering. Or numerous someones. You get it. From the very start, true enough to the original, although drummer Morgan Simpson managed to somehow outgroove Michael Giles! As 'true' as it may be, this is actually a strength, the cover becoming a showcase of the band's abilities. Much welcomed is the Ian MacDonald role filled by talented guest saxman Kaidi Akinnibi. Blackened vocals are joined by an absurd German impression at the very end. I love it. I can't believe it [well, it is Black Midi, so I can], but this is genuinely great.

Completely changing tone and direction and... potentially toward a different dimension, the next one is "Love Story" by T-Swift. All the hype surrounding her newest releases, taking a turn toward Indie Folk I believe, has still not quite drawn me in haha. And I can't imagine a cover by a band I even love will turn me in her direction any time soon. Anyhow... Of course my first question, you'll agree, was 'Are they about to play this song straight?!' What's even more interesting to me is that they're doing a Country-Western thang [I suggest a slightly older stylistic direction than her original]. The inclusion of sax does admittedly make it sound like E Street cheese, so... It's weird haha. Never need to hear this again. I'm not sure I even find it funny, though I'm sure the feeling would change if I saw this live. It's not like I don't respect this bold move on their part.

And on to the real wild card of the EP, though one that actually makes the most sense: Beefheart's "Moonlight On Vermont" off the beloved and confounding Trout Mask Replica (1969). The weird, angular guitar fits this perfectly, the drums are contained yet wild enough, and I assumed it had to be Geordie absolutely crushing these Howlin' Wolf-style growl-vox. Pure Avant-Blues, I have a feeling certain fans of his Magic Band would be pleased. Hilariously, the song slowly speeds up nearing the end and morphs almost entirely into a brief U2 reference, pulling guitar riff and lyric from "Pride (In the Name of Love)". Hilarious and amazing.

Overall, a pleasant surprise.

True Rate: 3.75/5.00

 Hellfire by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.07 | 157 ratings

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Hellfire
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TheEliteExtremophile

4 stars Last year, black midi made a fairly big shift in their sound. They moved away from the post-punk sounds of their debut and instead  dove headlong into progressive and avant-garde rock. Cavalcade is a fantastic record that brims with anxious energy, and Hellfire feels like a natural evolution. 

The music on this record is powerful and befits its title perfectly. The band has described their new album as an "action film," and the songs here are exhilarating enough to match that description. The lyrics are action-packed as well, often presented as  hellish or dystopian narratives. Tight riffs full of jazz and math-rock touches permeate this album alongside odder inclusions, like country and showtunes.

Hellfire starts on its title track, a frenetic 90 seconds of rambling vocals with a jazzy backing accompanied by the oppressive atmosphere of whirring dental drills. After this high-anxiety opener, a mock-sports announcer introduces the subdued opening of "Sugar/Tzu". This calm mood is soon broken by rapid, mathy guitar runs, and the last 30 seconds sees a bit of Spanish influence sneak into the fray.

Those Iberian flavors continue on "Eat Men Eat". Flamenco guitar and skittering percussion kick things off, and this song has a more gradual ascent than the preceding cut. In the more intense moments of this song, I get flashes of Of Montreal's prog album, Paralytic Stalks from the shouted, impassioned vocals.

"Welcome to Hell" was the first single off this album, and it took me a bit to warm up to it. In my option it works better in the flow of the album as a whole than as a standalone single. The guitar is spare, angular, and itchy. The lyrics speak of war and the misery of life in an army, and the big blasts of brass and strings do a great job at driving home a sense of doom. The final minute of the song sees black midi veer off into Cardiacs-style jazz-prog-punk. In sharp contrast, "Still" opens on laid-back country music, with floating pedal steel guitar and twinkling piano. Saxophone adds a nice textural element to this piece, and it provides some much-needed space to breathe amid black midi's usual insanity.

Following the brief, staticky interlude of "Halftime", "The Race Is About To Begin" is the longest song on the album. The opening is a bizarre mish-mash of the band's usual math-jazz intercut with elements of showtunes, particularly in the vocal melody. The whiplash of the transition to a quieter passage is enjoyable and disorienting in a good way. As the song progresses, the vocals are delivered at breakneck speed, becoming nearly indecipherable. The closing moments, though, are dreamy, slow, and floating.

"Dangerous Liaisons" keeps its jazz elements upfront. It maintains a calm atmosphere for most of its runtime, though there is some bombast in its second half. "The Defence" features more steel guitar, and there's an almost romantic feel to it. There are jazzy showtune elements in this song, as well.

Hellfire ends on "27 Questions", another sprawling, internally-diverse song. There's a plodding, foreboding feeling as the vocalist talks about a fugitive. Weird, honking, reedy organ and doomy guitar riffs add both oppressive weight and nervous jumpiness. The band deploys a very Canterbury-sounding organ tone at one point to create a brief snippet that would not be out of place on Soft Machine's Third. At the song's midpoint, it becomes weirdly upbeat, though sarcastically so in sharp contrast to the macabre questions being rattled off to the listener.

On Hellfire, black midi has further entrenched themselves in the world of avant-prog. This album is dense, weird, and eclectic. Despite so many disparate elements cohabitating, these sounds are not at odds with one another. In fact, everything fits together quite nicely.

Review originally posted here: theeliteextremophile.com/2022/07/25/album-review-black-midi-hellfire/

 Sweater / 7-Eleven by BLACK MIDI album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2020
2.28 | 6 ratings

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Sweater / 7-Eleven
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by DangHeck
Prog Reviewer

2 stars And here's yet another early-enough single I just ignorantly assumed was Schlagenheim album material. It certainly doesn't help that the digital version of standalone-single "7-eleven" literally copy-pasted that album's art as its own. Anyhow, all the more reason to give it a spin and give you all my thoughts [muh thunks kuh-chunk].

And we start off with the 11-and-a-half minute "Sweater", a helluva way to present your new single/EP regardless of the content (although, as many of us know, a common enough occurrence in Prog). And from the first strikes, I suspected I was in for a ride [color me wrong]. And then in Black Midi fashion (see the later mini-epic "Ascending Forth", for instance), it all dies down to the absolute softest output possible from electric guitar, bass and drums. Still suggesting to me influence from early-00s Math Rock (I could very well include Make Believe or Joan Of Arc, too, if I may), the chords are a tad bluesy. Morgan's attacks are sparse but purposeful. And here, with the angular choices from lead guitar (I usually assume from now-former member Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin), they reflect their Avant-Rock roots; at times methinks like Fred Frith. And when it comes to tracks where the main event is building a sonic scene, it's hard to say how I'll feel, but I'm diggin' this'n. Around minute 10, there's a sort of drier buzz sound reminiscent to "Welcome to the Machine". It would be a stretch to call this Space Rock, although it's mostly defined by ambience.

Seeming to continue in this too-empty-for-a-single kinda way, "7-eleven" enters the headphones low and slow, although with an optimistic sort of wonder. Here, Geordie delivers an only-so-convincing Western-accented monologue. I mean, if he's going for Southern, somebody might have an issue haha. And enter in a fitting banjo alongside the steady guitar. The latter crescendos to a single, ringing strike of distortion. It is certainly beautiful, but there's no way I would ever need to hear this again haha.

Ultimately, a much weaker single than the earlier "Talking Heads" / "Crow's Perch", and one I'm even more surprised exists at all haha.

True Rate: 2.5/5.0

Thanks to nogbad_the_bad for the artist addition. and to projeKct for the last updates

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