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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. The album was released in 2021.

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

4.02 | 48 ratings
Schlagenheim
2019
4.02 | 123 ratings
Cavalcade
2021
4.26 | 70 ratings
Hellfire
2022

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

4.75 | 4 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

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

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

3.00 | 3 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 | 2 ratings
Talking Heads / Crow's Perch
2019
3.67 | 3 ratings
Sweater / 7-Eleven
2020
4.40 | 5 ratings
John L / Despair
2021
0.00 | 0 ratings
Covercade
2021
3.00 | 2 ratings
Cruising
2021
4.00 | 3 ratings
Cavalcovers
2022

BLACK MIDI Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Hellfire by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.26 | 70 ratings

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Hellfire
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by LearsFool
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Shots in the back. Stalkers on shore leave. Farmers driven to murder. An equestrian gambler on the edge of brimstone. All these questionable characters and more, all stewing in Hades, can be gawked upon on the latest Black Midi record. The ever eclectic, intricate, and brash Windmill aligned band have outdone themselves on Hellfire, an apotheosis for their music thus far and an entertaining plunge into the depths of depravity.

The heart of the record is in the lurid lyrics, which develop a mythology between the three releases the group have yet dropped. Both guitarist Geordie Greep and bassist Cameron Picton spin tales at the very cutting edge of their abilities, truly engrossing and nightmarish. In particular, "Sugar/Tzu" is a futuristic boxing match silenced by a minor's gunshot, perhaps some of fighter Sun Tzu's dirty pool. "Eat Men Eat" describes the fate of the mine from Cavalcade's "Diamond Stuff", controlled by a homophobe who seeks to cannibalize cowboys and curses the survivors to a Kentucky-fried Montezuma's revenge. "Welcome To Hell" is, in and of itself, the tale of an officer evangelizing about the vile fun of shore leave before turning on an underling of tight morals. This cut's music video - as great as the others associated with Hellfire - expands this swashbuckling into the world of the masterful "Slow". The delivery of these stories are heightened by continued growth in each vocalist's respective style and abilities, with Greep's crooning in particular standing out as it twists and contorts around the damned.

Matching this are the complex, vanguardist instrumentals. The band has synthesized elements from their preceding albums into a cohesive whole, and from there exploded into new frontiers and whiplash dynamics. The likes of "Sugar/Tzu", "Welcome To Hell", and "The Race Is About To Begin" deliver on the heaviest, most mathematic side of BM, heightened by their ever expanding eclecticism and sidewinding that reminds the listener of a roller coaster. "Welcome To Hell" adds to the group's jazz leanings with a cornettist blasting alongside saxophonist Kaidi Akinnibi. In contrast, both the country-western leanings flashed on Schlagenheim and the softest faces of Cavalcade are refracted elsewhere. Both the galloping, neurotic "Eat Men Eat" and the beautiful "Still" develop the former in radically different directions. Later, the home stretch cuts "The Defence" and "27 Questions" recontextualize the latter through the LP's dark cabaret.

Part of the majesty of Hellfire for me comes from having experienced most of these tracks live both before and after the release of their studio versions. The evolution and reinterpretation of Black Midi's repertoire - and particularly this fiery LP's cuts - is a key part of their style and composition, which for Hellfire creates a fractal soundscape unlike any other. Volcanic gallops have given way to intricate pieces almost impossible to describe. And so the result is assuredly one of the best records of the decade, born of literal blood, sweat, and tears on club floors and forming into one of the new frontiers of prog music.

 Hellfire by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.26 | 70 ratings

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Hellfire
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by WJA-K

5 stars Black midi made the record of the year for me! Well, until now as we are halfway through 2022. What a blend of musical styles this is. And what virtuosity and confidence.

Geordie Greep reminds me of a twisted Frank Sinatra. He sings with a similar flair and that legato-style. Especially the song "The Defence" is very Sinatra through and through.

But there's also the influence from Zappa, classical music, punk, and progressive rock.

And it all fits. It takes a few spins, but this album then proves to be a classic in the making.

2022 has been a great year so far. And this one tops the list for me.

 Hellfire by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.26 | 70 ratings

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Hellfire
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Dapper~Blueberries

5 stars It is that time of the year again where we get a release from a band that just seemed to appear out of thin air. I am a sucker for black midi. Their style of post punk, Avant Prog, and jazz fusion is some of the wildest and down right insane I have heard in a band, even rivaling the weird stuff King Crimson did in the 70s. They ended up landing a place in my heart with their music so when I was excited to see this release come out this year. In tandem with An Hour Before It's Dark, Closure / Continuation, and Vaxis II; Hellfire was one of my most anticipated album of this year. I was pumped and ready to experience the wild, magical, and lunatic world of black midi once more.

The album starts with Hellfire, the title track obviously. It is more of an introductory piece to the album. It's Greep sing talking about some man who is so incredibly lazy that his body never grows anything anymore, and he is losing more than what he has already. Obviously the tried and true black midi weirdness is apparent in this song with the background instrumental being a weird marching band like tune being played over Greep's insanely weird vocals. Where their last album, Cavalcade, perfected the band's weird sound, Hellfire continues it even more impressively.

The next song is Sugar/Tzu. This is a song about a boxing match that goes insanely wrong because of an evil little girl shooting one of the boxer's in the back. The story is as crazy as the song, combining extremely obtuse fusion playing and drumming that is just insane. It feels like a boxing match from hell, especially the part when the horns are going all weird and fast, like they are beating you up in the ring. It is crazy how well they managed to create the feeling of being beaten to a pulp without trying for a heavier sound, instead they beat you up with insanity. This album truly is hell already, because with hell there is chaos, and with chaos there is insanity, and insanity and black midi is like bread and butter.

Speaking of bread and butter, next up is Eat Men Eat. This is stylized as a western drama where a cowboy couple gets invited into a mine that is basically a trap for them to be poisoned and turned to fuel where at the end they escape and kill the captain of the mines, who then curses them with?choice words. Yeah, if I had a nickel for everytime an artist made an album that had a certain word in it that came out this year, I'd have two nickels, which isn't a lot but it's definitely weird it happened twice. That aside, I really freaking love this song. It gives me a good outlaw country vibe mixed with the fusion lunacy the band specializes in. The drums, the guitar, and the horns, they just make an atmosphere that I never thought could sound so good. I wouldn't mind an album by the band that was basically this sound, because it's really good. Aside from THAT word, the song is another hit from the band.

I was definitely waiting to talk about this song. Welcome To Hell, the lead single of the album is just a masterpiece. I know I am talking highly positively on the last two songs, but this can even rival the amazing spectacle of John L. It is so raw and insane that it turns into something only black midi could do. It is essentially a song about an online stalker who is creepy to a girl, basically being a creepy incel to her, with the music video making it more otherworldly and almost evangelical. It is so freaking jazzy and oddball that it sounds like several songs rolled into one, and they managed to make it sound so natural that it is absolutely absurd how this band hasn't won a Grammy yet, because this is just fantastic.

Obviously at this point we are getting beaten down by some insane melodies, so it was nice to hear Still. Have you ever wondered what the band would sound like if they made a beach album? Well look no further than this song. It is the most tropical and summer feeling song the band has made. Obviously they do like to sprinkle in some craziness, especially towards the middle, but for the most part this is a calm and soothing ride that gives me some nice and cool vibes throughout it, which I enjoy quite a bit.

The next song is an interlude called Half Time. I think this is a good time to reflect on the album so far, and I gotta say, this definitely is one of the best releases of 2022 so far. Right at this moment I feel no shame in saying that I have no complaints right now for this album. While some albums definitely were great but had a few issues, this one feels perfect by just how it is, and so far it isn't even the longest album, but that's basically ok since these songs are good enough in my opinion that saying they should be longer undermines them profusely. Heck I think they are perfectly fine where they sit at the moment. At this halfway point, I cannot wait for the next song already.

Next is The Race Is About To Begin, and wow is it a race. It is so fast and wild and it just gets faster to where you can just feel the band getting exhausted just playing it until it all crashes and becomes a light acoustic ballad towards the end. This song is actually interesting since it is essentially telling a story about something that is more normal, and that is someone betting on a horse race and then losing said bet. It definitely feels like a song you'd hear when you have something to lose. It's so wild that after hearing it, I paused the album to really process it. It's like getting into a car crash with your body paralyzed in shock before it all comes crashing back and hitting you like a sledgehammer. It is a rollercoaster of a song, but less of a DisneyLand one and more of something you'd see in a Six Flags built by a psychopathic man who is too deranged to see his own reality, which I think perfectly describes this band as a whole really.

Next up is a sorta ballad-ish song called Dangerous Liaisons. This song is about a farmer who gets tricked by the devil posing as a member of the mafia to kill someone. It starts off pretty quietly and almost somber like, but when the farmer realizes that the man who tricked him was actually the prince of darkness, everything just spirals out of control, musically and lyrically. It feels like you get punched in the gut with dread as the horns blare and everything starts to feel mangled and twisted. All I can say is that you shouldn't trust the mafia, they might be some red guy with a pitchfork.

This is surprisingly the most normal song on the album, a lot less weird and more straight forward. This is also the shortest track on the album so I guess they were going for something a bit more tension breaking than something overly chaotic, which I like. The song is about a pimp with a god complex who realizes that he is going to hell and his girls aren't. Gotta love those songs with nice melodies and a good setup that has some dark lyricism, and one that really shows how much an ego can get you. Another nice work as usual.

And now the last song, 27 Questions. black midi is sort of a modern day King Crimson in a lot of aspects, heck they even made a cover of 21st Century Schizoid Man. This song is basically a tribute to the ever so stunning crimson kings with a story about a man named Freddy Frost who can be portrayed as King Crimson as a whole, something so old that life doesn't touch it, yet still extremely modern that even death may never reach it due to the internet and also because of a certain manga that is pretty popular. Also if you are wondering, yes there are 27 questions and I have no idea how to answer them. Like yeah the sun will burn out one day but how am I supposed to answer 'Intangibly dressed, invisibly seamed?' Like what? This is why I love this band, they make the best music around and stories but also pull stuff like this that really shows you that they truly are having a great time.

This is a strong contender for the best album this year due to how good it is. Super jazzy, weird, and just all around a must listen for basically any music fan. It isn't overly long and it is a perfectly sizable amount of songs to work your way through. A certified INSTANT hood classic.

 Hellfire by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.26 | 70 ratings

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Hellfire
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by santisoux

5 stars Echoes of a distant scenario, that of Dante and its miseries, the hells of the early renaissance seem like a nightmare of the present. And at these gates of hell, I see the dichotomies of present tense, global pandemic and the rise of new ways of fascism and authoritarism all around the world, hellfire seems to catch up sonically with the zeitgeist.

Adventurous, yet, still, consistent, the album delivers what critics cited as: "Bird song, strings, flute, harmonica, and xylophone pool into a warm ray of light and weld together, before you're thrown back into the hellfire, in the form of abrasive radio tuning, on 'Half Time'. Bewildering and brilliant." (From Loud and Quiet)

For me the entire album qualifies as a sort of complete narrative that takes you on a spin, makes you want to continue listening after leaving the album. It has everything, its own electivity in sonic language allows us to dream of the future of Prog rock, one that doesn't rely in the past as band like NMB, TKF or even BBT do. Here we have something strange, bewildering and yet catchy as hell.

Well-deserved 5 stars.

 Cavalcade by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.02 | 123 ratings

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Cavalcade
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I originally decided to pass on this one after reading descriptions of the music but when it finished as the runner up for album of the year on the site here I decided to spend the money. I've spent quite a bit of time with this one and I can certainly appreciate the appeal for Avant fans but I'm just surprised at how popular it seems to be with the masses based on the number of ratings they get on other sites. I mean this is Avant! Like the album cover it's like they tried to cram every idea into a small space and it doesn't work for me. Complex with lots of intricate sounds plus they layer a lot. The vocals are the hardest part, I'm just not a fan. I grew up in the 70's and the many Avant bands who add Disco or those soft easy listening sounds of the 70's to their music can keep it. Just my tastes in music.

The instrumentation listed on the site here is severely lacking. We get trombone, harpsichord, cello and violin(on more than one track) and the liner notes are so detailed with the instruments and I appreciate that and am impressed with what these guys play. The music is often nervous and hyper while the singer is loungey. Again it's hard not to be impressed with the complexity and I've heard they are amazing live.

Two tracks stand out for me and they are smack dab in the middle. "Slow" for the non-invasive vocals and the inventive guitar and check out the sax. "Diamond Stuff" for the quiet start that lasts for close to 4 minutes then it turns noisy as the atmosphere swells which sounds so good as a contrast to what went on before. Tempo picks up too. The closer might have been my third choice but man the vocals early on just sound lame. Same with "Dethroned" the other track that is right there with the other three I've mentioned. Kind of hit and miss but some really good stuff on that one like the guitar before 4 minutes.

So while I'm not the biggest Avant fan I do have 30 plus releases that I value highly and this is not one of them. Good album but not in my top ten for 2021.

 Schlagenheim by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.02 | 48 ratings

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Schlagenheim
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Pre-keys, pre-saxes, full-on guitar barrage.

The debut studio release from London's refreshing new prog-punk sensation. And the band lists Mahavishnu Orchestra as their #1 common inspiration!

1. "953" (5:20) a super-high energy song in the vein of 1970s punk and yet infused with the virtuosity and intellect of geniuses of the Robert Fripp / Les Claypool sort. The soft, pastoral passage in the second minute--over which Geordie begins singing--is so unexpected and yet, again, such a sign of this band's exceptional genius. Love the religious/psychological indictment of the lyrics. Great opener. Awesome display of power, youth, and control. There are metal bands who don't have this much coherence. (9/10)

2. "Speedway" (3:17) a rather simple though polyrhythmic song using a kind of ska-beat with instrumental craziness occurring around it while Matt talk/sings in a DAVID BYRNE-like "duplicitous reassuring husband" voice. Genius and entertaining. (9/10)

3. "Reggae" (3:29) the baseline two-chord riff within one of the main motif in this song remind me of something old and favored--I think something from an early 1980s XTC record. The abrasive industrial sounds are awesome reminders of a type of music that kind of came and went in the 1980s and 90s. (9/10)

4. "Near DT, MI" (2:20) one of Matt's songs--one that expresses outrage for the criminal acts that have resulted in the "acceptance" and attempted gloss-over of the lead poisoning of the public water systems of city of Flint, Michigan's (which is near Detroit, MI). Brilliantly composed, rendered, and vocaled (by Cameron when I saw them in concert: THE song that got the mosh pit revved up.) I'm thinking that, once upon a time a youthful Bill Nelson would have been proud of this song. A top three song, for sure! (10/10)

5. "Western" (8:08) a rather subdued, Country & Western-ized jazz song in which Geordie makes his first attempts to introduce his Elvis-like crooner alter-ego. At 1:45, however, the band has no choice but to inject some kind of prog- rock pulsation. The dark, violent lyrics are, in my opinion, a tongue-in-cheek parody of all C&W melodrama. It's awesome! At 5:40 there is a very sudden and dramatic "change of channels" from the abrasive cacophony that was building, to the bucolic C&W soundscape that opened the song. Nice front porch weave of folk-country music. (13.5/15)

6. "Of Schlagenheim" (6:24) this one opens in pure prog rock territory: every sound, effect, instrument, and riff is straight out of some classic psychedlic prog or prot-prog song (even LED ZEPPELIN!) Geordie's lyrics are delivered as if stream-of-consciousness, but I know they're not. An almost Canterbury-Gong section is beautifully rendered before switching back to bluesy LED ZEP--in fact,in several variations thereof. An awesome, simple awesome song. Another top three song for me. (9.25/10)

7. "bmbmbm" (4:56) the song that introduced me to this band. As you might imagine, it was a relationship of entertainment from the start--as well as one of respect for creativitiy. What came later--after hearing other songs by the band, was respect and awe at their musicianship. The point is, here, that she moves with a purpose. A bit sophomoric and yet also ingenius. (8.75/10)

8. "Years Ago" (2:34) What?! Peter Gabriel-esque World music? Or is it CAN or TALKING HEADS? Or some prog or death metal band? Great baseline groove from the rhythm section. This vocal is not Geordie. Could it be Matt? or Cameron? Whatever it is, it's awesome! (5/5)

9. "Ducter" (6:42) using a kind of minimalist Math Rock approach )as they will do more of on on their next album) to set the foundation for the showcase of the lyrics, Geordie delivers another idiosyncratic vocal performance that is half-crazed and half-angry, yet always entertaining. The intricate timing of every band member's performance here is quite a razor's edge to travel, but they do it with perfection--with enthusiasm and serious commitment--as they do in concert. An awesome display of whole band interconnection. (9.5/10)

Total Time 43:10

A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of refreshing neo-punk eclectic Math Rock. An album I highly recommend for any music lover to hear: I believe that these are the future sounds of progressive rock music!

 Cavalcade by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.02 | 123 ratings

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Cavalcade
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Though I've been sitting on this album for almost five months, I simply must give it a review; people need to hear and re-hear about this band--the important contribution they're making to music and, in particular, progressive rock music.

There are some who want to question the veracity of the application of the term "progressive rock" to this band and their music. I urge you to see them live--even watch the videos of their live performances--but, if you can, see them live. You will be convinced. Not since seeing King Crimson on the Discipline and Beat tours have I seen such a stage full of virtuosos, each giving their all to each and every second of each and every song. And they're a band member short right now (guitarist/singer/composer Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin is on mental health hiatus)! But, with the addition of a keyboard player (the hardest working, most dynamic performance I've EVER seen from a keyboard artist: Seth worked harder than the drummer!) and the ubiquitous sound of the saxophone (thanks to the amazing Kaidi Akinnibi) as well as the stepping up of rising superstar Cameron Picton, this is a band on fire, on the rise, and punching holes in the Crimsonian/MarsVolta universe of aggressive prog rock.

1. "John L" (5:14) opens like something straight off of THE MARS VOLTA's De-Loused in the Comatorium, but then turns PRIMUS in its vocal performance and dominant low-end sonic range. The odd-tempoed, stop and go music is flawlessly performed despite incredible intricacy and stark periods of absolute silence. Incredible! Then the song begins to slowly but steadily increase in its speed before the staccato structure and piano banging begins. Violin also plays an important role (substituted for by soprano saxophone in concert). Such a great double riff from Geordie to keep us anchored. (9.25/10)

2. "Marlene Dietrich" (2:54) What?! What did I just hear? Smoke-lounge crooning from Geordie Greep? Wow! What versatility and flexibility--not to mention the talent are we being exposed to on this album! Amazing! The strings and slide and acoustic guitars offer such a rich chamber feel. Music does not get much better than this--from any genre or era! We are not worthy! (10/10)

3. "Chondromalacia Patella" (4:49) opens with an abrasive and very odd-tempoed strum of an electric rhyhm guitar before drums and bass chords and saxophone screams join in to punctuate. In the second minute the music settles into a jazzy, Math Rock, KING CRIMSON/AZTEC CAMERA motif over which Geordie sings in his new CASSANDRA WILSON-like low-end crooning voice. In the forth minute, as the music turns full KING CRIMSON, Geordie snaps back into his more theatric tones and cadences--but then the music drives into a continuous upward-building chord progression. In concert, this song was played out into a much longer extended version in which the pulsating saxophone-led screams between vocal sections were responded to antiphonically by the audience. A real audience pleaser and concert highpoint. here in the studio album form, it is a perfect song to illustrate the band's grounding in what are truly progressive rock forms and sounds. I am certain that our hero, the Black Knight, Sir Robert of Fripp, and his arch-nemesis, William of Bruford would both be smiling in accord while listening (or viewing) this one (not to mention the Court Jester, Adrian of Belew, and the master stick-wielder, Tony the Bald). (9.5/10)

4. "Slow" (5:37) an awesome KCRIMSONian baseline structure over which Cameron performs the extraordinary vocal: at first whispering but later screaming at the top of his lungs. Horns/saxes play a key part in the power of this--but there are also some incredibly stark, beautiful jazz guitar passages over which Cameron whisper/sings. (9/10)

5. "Diamond Stuff" (6:21) opening with some simple guitar and bass notes, repeating ad infinitum--like a SCOTT WALKER or JOHN ZORN song (though I believe Cameron is the sensitive whisper-singer)--this gradually expands into an ethereal dream-cinema jazz tune (in he fifth minute!) Beautiful (and quite unexpected)! (9/10)

6. "Dethroned" (5:03) once again Geordie is deceiving us with his crooner voice (somewhat enhanced by effects). This is a song that I've heard performed live and seen/heard on videos of live performances and it always sounds different. On KEXP it was so powerful. Here it is great though much more "controlled." Live last night it got overshadowed by some of the other songs. Those final two minutes of orchestrated cacophony are amazing! (9/10)

7. "Hogwash and Balderdash" (2:33) again, controlled chaos--in a punk way. The lyrics might give it more impact than I'm feeling. (8.5/10)

8. "Ascending Forth" (9:46) a smooth, jazzified love song to ascending fourths--something that, apparently, everybody loves. (I know I do!) Geordie's SCOTT WALKER-like vocal performance is amazing. (Perhaps a lot of black midi's inspiration comes from Scott Walker?) Beautiful Spanish acoustic guitar (Cameron?) provides the sole foundation beneath Geordie's beautiful croon for the first two minutes Then full jazz-fusion band joins in with a MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA-kind of effect (and structure). I'm reminded of some of CASSANDRA WILSON's songs-- even down to the tone and timbre of her voice in comparison to that of Geordie Greep. Awesome and powerful. (18/20)

Originally, I did not want to review this album before posting one for Cavalcade's 2019 predecessor, Schlagenheim, but October 12th's concert prompted me thus. While I think that the music catalogued on Cavalcade shows a band moving forward, pushing boundaries--often in unexpected directions--Schlagenheim may have been better for the way it provided the first impression of a new band to the (progressive rock) music scene. But this album is definitely a step forward, a step sealing this band's place in the pantheon of Prog Greats and Last Great Hopes. The next album should be ... amazing.

A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music and a shining star of what the 21st Century (as well as the first) has to offer Prog World.

 Cavalcade by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.02 | 123 ratings

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Cavalcade
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mae7Mae

5 stars [Spanish speaker here, sorry for the bad english] It was a great surprise to see that a band like black midi was added to Progarchives. Being one of the best modern bands in the alternative circle with its first album that mixed math rock and post punk-like styles with few tones of prog, the band took the brave decision of making an Avant-garde, full progressive record in 2021. Did this weird and unexpected turn worked? In my opinion, yes, better than most of the modern prog albums of the last years. The path of black midi has always been influenced by prog and avant garde bands like Can and King Crimson, but in this new album they didn't replicate the 70's experimental music, making just another retro prog album. They showed that they are capable of taking this avant garde music in their own terms of making music and through their path of alternative/experimental rock. The magic of this record lies within their capacity of mixing their characteristic sound, chaotic and expressive as only they could play, with the sounds of avant-jazz and sonic experimentation that resembles the best years of Rock in Opposition. A record that sounds both classic and fresh. The album starts with "John L", and it was probably the best way to start this album. Almost like a reimagination of King Crimson's 21st century schizoid man, this song makes a clear path to the album's weirdness, with its jazzy improvisation, the memorable riffs, avantgardish solos and its unpredictability. Marlene Dietrich shows to the listener the most slow and calmed version of black midi, another turn in the sound of the band known for its chaotic performances. Chondromalacia Patella and Slow make a better demostration of their Math rock influences, with riffs that reminds of bands like Battles and Tera Melos, but with a breeze jazz and build up structure that creates the perfect atmosphere and climax in both songs. Diamond Stuff and Dethroned take again a calmer version of black midi, the first one making an ambient atmosphere similar to Pink Floyd's and the second one being more fitting into a classic 70's eclectic prog album like (to give an example) VDGG's Godbluff. Hogwash and Balderdash was probably the most unexpected song to me. This is full avant garde coming from the band. Dissonant jazz riffs, an unnerving bass following the drums, rythmic experimentation and, whatever happens at the end of the song, makes one of the most chaotic and progressive black midi's creations in only two and a half minutes. And with a wonderful experience, taking some of the most atmospheric sounds of the prog of bands like Genesis and early King Crimson, the band ends this album with Ascending Forth, probably one of the most unfitting, yet on of the best songs of this young band. This album is everything that any prog fan would love to listen to. Avant garde, Jazz, Math rock, a little of ambient, a little of post rock. Everything great about prog (And everything that has been done wrong by the contemporary prog bands) is here with an expressive and always refreshing perfomance. This album is probably one of the best prog albums of the last ten years at least. It achieved a sound enjoyable to indie/alternative music fans and to classic prog fans, something that no oher band could make before in this perfect way. And it should leave us a hope in the future bands that could take black midi's sound, and making another return of the elegant yet bold and brave progressive rock. Only time will show how influential this album will be in the form of prog to come.
 Cavalcade by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.02 | 123 ratings

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Cavalcade
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by mental_hygiene

5 stars Cavalcade is one of the most refreshing albums I've heard in 2021. I first knew black midi because they used to be extremely hyped up before they released their debut Schlagenheim. I was actually not much of a fan of that album, and to put it best it felt like music that was meant for the interactivity of live performance without the interactivity. However, I loved seeing their live performances. I've been waiting for the right moment for a few months, and I'm incredibly grateful that it came because this album has exceeded any expectations I had for it. Cavalcade is beautifully deranged, and surprisingly refined in its chaos. There are moments that evoke the chamber prog chaos of Univers Zero and Art Zoyd, the aggression and dynamics of King Crimson, and generally a vocal delivery that border between sprechgesang, the low-life personas of Tom Waits, and the hazed delivery from some certain Krautrock bands (mainly thinking of Amon Duul II).

The opening track, John L, is the most like past Black Midi. The incoporation of violin brings me to Starless and Bible Black era King Crimson, specifically the Great Deciever. The most shocking thing to me was the moment of silence that happens at the peak of tension in this song. There's an insane music video for this song, too. The lyricism of John L is ominous and describes a cult leader in a way that is truly poetic and refreshing. The music video is a work of art, featuring an elaborate dance troupe worshipping a monolithThis is immediately contrasted with Marlene Dietrich, which is the first ballad of this record. That's right, this avant-prog album has jazz-rock ballads on it! It's a song constructed conceptually around the titular actress. It's almost an ode to her as well as a character piece and prelude to Ascending Forth

Chrondomalacia Patella is the next song, and also the formal term for knee pain! This song is one of my favorites from this because of how it develops into something so brutally intense by the end. There's a scratchy guitar riff that builds with the intense drum and bass work on this album. The drumming is especially so tight and coordinated to the point it makes the rapid tempo and avant-garde passages feel natural in delivery. The dynamics of black midi as an ensemble are brilliant on this record. The breakdown at the end is insane, and the synthesized noise that ends it is one of those incredibly iconic sound gestures that can only be done once. Bringing back more king crimson comparisons, it reminds me of the transition of Talking Drum into Larks Tongues in Aspic. This song immediately transitions into Slow, which begins with a really intense groove. This song reminds me of In Rainbows radiohead, but it really is something else. The bursts of atmosphere that happen at the peaks of this song are so well executed. The guitar work throughout this album is really remarkable too. In an era where we abuse overdrive and gain, the guitar sounds are often completely clean. In general, I think this album beats schlagenheim just for how good it sounds.

Diamond Stuff takes us into another dynamic break with a tantric and almost ambient introduction. It's extremely beautiful and otherworldly. There's an element of chamber music in this song that gives it a rich array of sounds. The textures on this record are so captivating to my ears because of how they direct your ears between different aesthetics: the cold avant-prog/RIO type of full-ensemble chaos and the jazz and early 1900s influenced culture. At the height of Diamond Stuff this is basically psychedelic post-rock.

The next song is another character piece. Dethroned builds around the anxiety and desperation of defeat in the form of a man who's experiencing an existential crisis after a moment of defeat. Fittingly, this is a very intense song with more spastic riffage. The scratchy and delayed guitar lines are really cool because they built the whole song around it. This is followed by the intense Hogwash and Balderdash, a song framed around two runaway convicts. The lyricism is particularly reminiscant of 80s Tom Waits, especially from songs like Singapore that are chaotic and zany. The drama on these two songs makes for a really engaging listening experience. I think overall, the storytelling and the dynamics are what make this album miles above anything Black Midi has done before.

Ascending Forth is the epic of this album, and feels like a natural conclusion to the themes described in each song. There's so much depth to how they use recurring themes, textures, and in this case, chord progressions with meta- commentary that serves the purpose of its tale and also brings Ascending Forth to the next level. I don't mean to weigh this review down with more useless comparisons, but the fact that this song evokes Genesis for me only serves to prove that this is one of the most well informed and well written albums of this year. It's not trying to be prog, or trying to be retro in any common sense. It evokes pre-rock popular music and combines it with intense avant-garde and even modern classical influences. The drama of Cavalcade is extremely engaging and refined as we hear of all these characters and their downfalls. Unlike a lot of avant-prog music, there are moments here that are legitimately heartwarming and tragic. It's very rare that a band is able to so effectively capture an entire album as a thematic arc through lyricism and dynamicism. More importantly, it doesn't feel like it's grounded in some far off dimension. Cavalcade takes on a lot of early 1900s modernist themes and brings it into the 21st century as a succinct 40-some minute work rather than just an avant-prog album. I think this is easily one of the most exciting, relevant, and frankly interesting developments in the avant-prog, noise rock, and math rock world in quite a while. Whereas some bands never capture their debut again, black midi has essentially spayed their first album by showing their full hand of music making. Even though this review is a bit tentative on my part, I feel like this album will be a stand-by for repeat listening in the future. Without question, I think this is a prog essential!

 Cavalcade by BLACK MIDI album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.02 | 123 ratings

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Cavalcade
black midi RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by tempest_77

5 stars Based on the first Black Midi album, a lot of people thought they were going to move in the direction of becoming more of a post-punk band. However, their sophomore album "Cavalcade" absolutely blows all expectations out of the water. The album is a wild journey that combines Tom Waits with 70s Krautrock, brutal avant-prog, math rock, and jazzy melodies. The album is simultaneously much more calculated and organized than their noise rock-style debut, but still sounds incredibly chaotic and intense. From the brutal avant- garde riffs in songs like" John L" and "Chondromalacia Patella", to the much softer, heartfelt sound of "Marlene Dietrich", to the almost jazz fusion-esque complexity of "Diamond Stuff", to the outright chaotic noise rock of "Hogwash and Balderdash", Cavalcade is the freshest album I have heard in a VERY long time, and is quite possibly the most creatively intense album I've seen since David Bowie's Blackstar. Somehow, despite all the stellar moments of the preceding seven tracks, "Ascending Forth" is absolutely the pinnacle of the album, in a way that simultaneously subverts all expectations while fully meeting the precedent set by the rest of the album. I had high expectations for the record given that it is the highest rated album on RYM from this year, and I am very happy to say that it managed to exceed those expectations. Easy 5/5 stars, this is a truly stellar release.
Thanks to nogbad_the_bad for the artist addition.

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