Day 24 of the #mayvinylchallenge asks for an impulse buy: a record you just had to have. For me there aren’t a lot of albums I relentlessly crave or “have” to have, but I impulse buy a lot. The most recent example of this was when I was listening to “Welcome to Hell” the new single from UK post-everything black midi. Being so caught up in older music it’s always great to hear something new that strikes a nerve, and as I was listening to the new song I realized I didn’t own the band’s 2019 debut Schlagenheim. That was a problem quickly rectified, and so here we are to talk about it.
It’s hard to define just what it is black midi does. There are elements of post-punk and jazz and rock but nothing sounds like anything you would expect to come out of your radio. Somehow these four young kids create a noise that is absolutely surprising in its execution and direction. They are monsters on their instruments: if you are not in awe of the drumming of Morgan Simpson after listening to this there might be something wrong with you. The jazz rock chops of guitarist/vocalist Geordie Greep come with some truly unique vocal tics and performances – Pitchfork for once nailed it in their review of the album when they said “Imagine someone with the name “Geordie Greep” and that’s essentially who he sounds like (or, Mark E. Smith if he were a Bond villain).”
That comparison to the Fall is an apt one, and if I were to compare what black midi are doing here to anyone it might be them, although I still think the barrier to entry to the Fall’s music is a tougher nut to crack than it is here. Schlagenheim (loosely translated from German as “hits home”) kicks off with “953” and it’s as great an introduction to the band as you can get. For something a little more varied I really dig the different section of “Western” which closes Side A and has moments of real tranquility sprinkled in its madness.
That being said, the second side is where Schlagenheim really shines. After the menacing hip-hop beats slammed against PiL punk of “Of Schlagenheim” glitches with noise and subtle moments of 70s grace it lurches back to its angular attack accompanied by Greep doing his best Lydon impression. Then there is the anthemic “bmbmbm” which my McElroy brain always wants to translate to “MBMBAM” even though I know that’s not right. It plays with a simple repeating pattern, accentuated and syncopated by Simpson as Greep plays with the repeating lyric. By the time of “Ducter” you’re taken for a ride you don’t quite know how to explain. black midi is an example of a band taking so many styles they no longer become recognizable.
It’s thrilling, it’s new, and it’s impulsive. I can’t get enough. Check out this early performance below and see if you agree.