Home Read Albums Of The Week: Black Midi | Cavalcade

Albums Of The Week: Black Midi | Cavalcade

The London oddbals keep if freaky & freewheeling on their sophomore album.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Cavalcade is a dynamic, hellacious, and inventive follow-up to Black Midi’s 2019 releases Schlagenheim. It scales beautiful new heights, pulling widely from a plethora of genres and influences, reaching ever upwards from an already lofty base of early achievements. Black MidiGeordie Greep (guitar, primary vocals), Cameron Picton (bass, vocals), and Morgan Simpson (drums) — picture Cavalcade as a line of larger-than-life figures, from a cult leader fallen on hard times and an ancient corpse found in a diamond mine to legendary cabaret singer Marlene Dietrich, strolling seductively past them. “When you’re listening, you can imagine all the characters form a sort of cavalcade. Each tells their story one by one and as each track ends they overtake you, replaced by the next in line,” comments Picton.

Album opener John L has a massive sound, driven by some gutsy Discipline-era King Crimson thrust, and energy wrought by the inclusion of Jerskin Fendrix on violin. The group tease the raging track to the point of nonexistence before leading it through caverns of reverb and gauzy snareskin landscapes, just for it to return, hitting hard as hell once more. The story painted is a jet black comedy about what happens to cult leaders when their followers turn on them. Its equally tremendous video was directed by choreographer Nina McNeely, known for her work on Rihanna’s Sledgehammer and Gaspar Noe’s Climax.

Photo by Yis Kid.

The groundwork for Cavalcade was laid in 2019 — musical sketches that had been brewing since the release of Schlagenheim began muscling their way into Black Midi set lists and finally became individual entities. But with this album, there was a “yearning” to be more considered and record something that was more harmonically interesting and challenging. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in the improvisation myth of divine intervention, that if a song doesn’t happen in the room naturally without it being guided by someone specifically, when we’re all just feeling the vibe, then it’s not proper and it’s not pure,” says Greep. “That’s kind of a dangerous thing because you end up never trying something different, or you just abandon an idea if it doesn’t work at first because you’re always waiting for that thing to arrive perfect.”

With this new approach in mind, half of Cavalcade was written by individual members at home and brought to the table in rehearsal. Simpson confirms it was to their advantage: “The experience this time round was completely the flipside to Schlagenheim. A lot of the material was really fresh but that was something that played into our hands and we relished it.” After initially recording John L with producer Marta Salogni in London, the band found themselves in the aptly named Hellfire Studios in the Dublin mountains, in summer 2020 under the eye of John ‘Spud’ Murphy. Geordie comments: “It worked really well with John. We wanted a natural, open sound combined with fourth-wall breaks — for lack of a better expression. Do you know on record when you can hear the tape screeching, the things that make you aware that you’re listening to a recording? [With a lot of records] it feels like either you’re listening to the ECM, high-fidelity, 25 mic amazing sound or you have the lo-fi album full of crazy effects. And I thought, ‘Why not have an album where you combine the two?’ That was one of the main ideas going into it and John was very keen on that idea.”

With original band member guitarist/vocalist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin taking time away from the group to focus on his mental health, Black Midi chose to augment their sound on Cavalcade rather than replicate it, adding saxophonist Kaidi Akinnibi and keyboard player Seth Evans.”