I was lucky to catch Black Midi Monday night at Warsaw (“where pierogis meet punk”). A London-based quartet made up of 19 and 20-year olds, Black Midi has been around for all of two years. Last June they released their debut album Schlagenheim (Rough Trade) and have since been touring the world. It’s far from clear exactly what kind of band this is, though it is undeniably innovative, polystylistic and intense. Probably the most pronounced references are from classic post-punk like Gang of Four, Wire and The Fall. But then they are also a kind of math rock, or prog band. At times they channeled the transcendent wall of noise of SWANS, at other times capturing the psychedelic grooves of Can. There were some odd thrash metal passages evoking Melvins, and maybe even a dose of DC proto-emo Rites of Spring. I even thought of Radiohead a few times, oddly. Some of their immediate contemporaries might include Promartyr, Idles or Shame. It was all very hard keep track of their twists and turns, but for most part it was completely riveting.
Over nearly a nearly hour and a half set, there was hardly a pause. One song morphed into another, and the band really never stopped making sound, at times seeming to improvise for extended stretches. Despite their name, which refers to a hyper-saturated style of digital music, Black Midi is primarily guitar-based, with the two guitarists dominating the clangor. The bass player alternates between electric bass and bass synth, sometimes adding other synth-based special effects, and the drummer is truly outstanding. All told, this is a pretty scary band.
If they have a weakness, it’s the vocals. Though three of the four members do some lead vocalizing, the main singer (and guitarist), and de-facto frontman is Geordie Greep. His vocal style is certainly odd, and maybe a bit overly affected. There’s a sort of forced theatricality to it that doesn’t entirely ring true. But no matter, he more than makes up for it with style and charisma. Frankly it was hard to not watch him. I’m not sure I can really read his personal style, but suffice it to say he definitely has style. And overall, the band is interesting to look at.
It will certainly be fascinating to see how Black Midi develops, as they truly seem to be on to something new and different. They’re currently working their way south, in Philly tonight, DC on Wednesday, then wrapping up the US leg in Seattle on the 24th. If you’re in their path, don’t miss it!