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black midi - Cavalcade Music Album Reviews

black midi - Cavalcade Music Album Reviews
The UK band stakes out even more ground on their glorious second album. The chord changes are more elaborate, the rhythms more twisted, the pretty parts prettier, the heavy parts heavier.

Let’s start with the ending, an orchestral finale so grand it might as well come with a title card attached: That’s all, folks! The last two chords of Cavalcade, black midi’s second album, form a harmonic exclamation point that would have been recognizable to listeners even centuries ago, indicating that it was time to pack up their opera glasses and head home. After the previous 40 minutes of Cavalcade, an avant-rock labyrinth of maddening intricacy, navigated without any such conventional signposts, this is a perverse way to wrap things up. Arriving with an abrupt cut from the full band’s pummelling and caterwauling, the gesture’s familiarity makes it unsettling, surreal, like the punchline to an obscure joke. How could a record so full of noise and contradiction ever end on such a fine point?

black midi became a sensation among adventurous rock listeners almost immediately after releasing their first single in 2018, and with good reason. They were just out of high school but played like they’d been woodshedding for decades. There was something almost obscene about their early performance videos, that those gawky kids were playing like this. The giddiness you felt upon watching was not unlike that of seeing a particularly outrageous internet meme. They seemed to have completed multiple lifetimes worth of left-field listening by the time they made Schlagenheim, their debut album—The Fall, Touch and Go post-hardcore, Miles Davis in the ‘70s, King Crimson in the ‘80s—and channeled those touchstones in songs that were exuberant and alive rather than fussy and reverent.

The excitement had something to do with their dazzling instrumental expressiveness; drummer Morgan Simpson, especially, was like a free-jazz virtuoso going undercover in a punk band. It also involved guitarist and de facto frontman Geordie Greep, whose hectoring anti-charisma may be the band’s most distinctive element, whether you love his free-associative rants or wish he’d dial them back just a hair. (For me, and I suspect plenty of other fans, it’s a little of both.) Finally, there was the sense that black midi were discovering their powers in real time as you listened, an impression they heightened with frequent onstage improvisation. For all the hours they’d evidently spent doing their homework, the music never felt charmlessly studied or proficient. It was raw.

If there was any pressure to flatten out their idiosyncrasies for Cavalcade, they clearly rejected it. The album is a good deal more ambitious and more difficult than its predecessor, stretching even further in almost every direction that Schlagenheim staked out. The chord changes are more elaborate, the rhythms more twisted, the pretty parts prettier, the heavy parts heavier. Schlagenheim aspired toward jazz fusion and 20th-century classical; Cavalcade has passages that sound like Mahavishnu Orchestra and Olivier Messiaen. Schlagenheim had its fair share of dopey-awesome metallic grooves and guitar parts; Cavalcade comes thrillingly close, a handful of times, to Primus or System of a Down. Greep, who handles vocals on six of the eight songs, has upped his flair for the theatrical, abetted by new contributors on sax, violin, and keyboards. Listening to Schlagenheim, it was easy to imagine black midi kicking out the jams in a basement somewhere. Now, the imagined setting is more like a Hieronymous Bosch painting, or a three-ring circus. There is a vague but persistent feeling that someone involved might be wearing a monocle.

“John L,” the album’s first song, is also its most broadly representative. The central theme creaks and lurches like a see-saw in need of WD-40 and Greep slurs out a portrait of a cultish political leader at the end of his rope. When the singer takes on the voice of John L himself, offering his followers a blend of nationalist fear and capitalist wish fulfillment, a grotesque vocal effect enters the mix to underscore the message’s dark familiarity: “A man is his country, your country is you/All bad is forewarned, all good will come true.” When there’s simply too much going on, the band creates powerful tension by paring things away: deconstructing their own groove in the song’s electrifying middle section, or plunging into cavernous silence between outbursts of drums and violin.

In building so elaborately atop the black midi framework, Cavalcade loses a bit of Schlagenheim’s spartan urgency; there’s nothing like “Near DT, MI,” the Flint water crisis cri de cœur that provided the debut with its most searing two-minute stretch. But the band’s willingness to indulge every impulse also leads them to wild new territory. “Slow” and “Diamond Stuff,” the two songs fronted by bassist Cameron Picton (who also led “Near DT, MI”) are among the best in the black midi catalog. The former’s manic prog-jazz pounding imagines a surprisingly fruitful middle ground between Swans and Steely Dan. The latter is eerie and spacious, transfixing without rising above a whisper.

There’s an aesthetic developing among jazz-schooled and internet-fried musicians like Louis Cole or DOMi and JD Beck, propagated on YouTube and social media more so than on proper albums, which has brought youthful new verve to wonky old virtuosity by acknowledging that there’s something a little funny about being able to play so ridiculously well. Whether intentionally or not, black midi have always had a bit of this quality—something like a joyous Are you fucking kidding me? was an appropriate reaction to those early live videos—and they bring it closer to the surface on Cavalcade. It’s there in that queasy-beautiful final cadence, and in the wink of the chord progression that underpins the verses of “Ascending Forth,” the closing song, which ascends by a fourth whenever Greep hits the titular phrase. It’s there in “Slow” and “Hogwash and Balderdash,” both of which feature variations on the same musical gag: in the middle of an intensely technical passage, the band suddenly drops out, leaving a single instrument to jitter nakedly for one measure or less before everyone barrels back in. More than any particular rock artist, it reminds me of Carl Stalling, the brilliant house composer for Looney Tunes.

When Cavalcade is at its most antic and cerebral, the “rock” part of the black midi equation becomes almost ancillary, like they could just as easily be exploring the same regions if they were free improvisers or composers for orchestra. The music’s relentless complexity, insularity, and high drama can be challenging even for a listener predisposed toward those qualities. The band seems to understand this, and they are more willing to meet you in the middle than you might think. Again and again, as a given song teeters toward lunacy, they return to primal call-and-response: one, two; a bang, then a crash; the rumble of a power chord followed by the wail of a sax. These moments are consistently among the album’s most satisfying, perhaps because of the relief they provide from an otherwise overwhelming procession of big ideas. They repeat a few times, you bang your head and catch your bearings, then the cavalcade continues.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
black midi - Cavalcade Music Album Reviews black midi - Cavalcade Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, June 04, 2021 Rating: 5

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