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black midi - Cavalcade CD (album) cover

CAVALCADE

black midi

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.01 | 129 ratings

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BrufordFreak
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.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |

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