Black Midi // Live Review & Photoset

20th June | Fiddlers

Photos: Chelsey Cliff

It really is once in a blue moon that you find yourself in a time and a place where the air stands still, where you feel you’ve become privy to something truly special, and what’s more is that you’ve been let in on this secret before it’s had a chance to poke its head from beneath the sheets. This is exactly how it felt to catch the incredible Black Midi on the eve of their debut record’s release.

The anticipation of this particular set became truly palpable before the band had even set foot upon the looming stage of Bedminster’s hidden gem, Fiddlers. With the great wealth of music readily available in this city, frequently the most incredible bands can find themselves lost in the background static. It seems, though, that the Chinese whispers of this gig in particular managed to reach an often-elusive fever pitch.

The creeping, domineering architecture of this decommissioned jail turned night spot, whether by choice or coincidence, appeared as a viscerally fitting backdrop for the contorting beast waiting patiently in its wings. The initial focus of Black Midi’s intimidating presence can be found in drummer, Morgan Simpson’s truly awe-inspiring ability. Aggressive and unbelievably heavy in its realisation, there is a clear focus of unconventional jazz hiding beneath his grooves.

The ability to command swift and impressive time-signature changes whilst still breathing a cathartic grunge atmosphere makes for a mesmerising experience, especially when that heady air brakes to form a tranquil patch of intricate control. This element of manic discordance is mirrored within the rest of the band. Whilst Simpson is clearly the driving force behind the sheer impact of the outfit’s incredible mastery of dynamic control, the emotional weight and theatrics find their origin in Geordie Greep’s David Byrne-like jittering vocal cadences.

Flashing images of Ian Curtis in both his tonality and presence, Greep materialises as a menacing android, slicing through bursts of chaotic mania before surfacing into moments of introspection, leaving an unsuspecting audience unsure of the intent of his navigation. There is a vitality in this band’s output, a sense of controlled panic that manifests as a lurching creature, leaping from chaos to calm in such a way that there is no stagnation present in any of their output. Their tracks are constantly evolving and impossible to pin down, heavy and math-rock inspired in parts before breaking away to country-inspired arpeggiations or flange-laden grunge segues.

It becomes startlingly apparent that the technical ability possessed by every member of this cult is truly deserving of some appreciation. Not a single beat lies out of place and not a single note goes without purpose, though on the surface it does not always seem that way. That’s what I find so endearingly impressive about their work: you find yourself presented with an incredible wealth of technical proficiency that does not allow itself to lose any of its raw, cathartic passion and spirit.

A controlled panic attack of equal parts weight and introspection, a clear mastery of technical ability and an obvious musical chemistry coalesces to form one of the most exciting bands I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing in a very long time. I cannot recommend picking up their newly-released debut LP enough, and for the love of God go and catch them live whilst you can.

See the video for ‘ducter’ here: