Review Summary: some wicked shit
In everybody’s life at some point comes a moment that will define your future. It can be an interview for a job you want and will hopefully spend the rest of your life doing or progressing in. It can be a decision in your personal life that completely turns everything upside down (for better or worse). And it certainly can be a performance that goes so well that it drags in the majority of your newfound fans and puts you on people’s lookout forever. Black Midi’s KEXP performance is like Future Islands’ appearance on Letterman, a complete gamechanger. Their on-stage antics, hijinks and occasional bloopers made for an incredibly charming experience, while the song-writing oddity and its eccentric delivery created intrigue. And now they have their debut full-length out building on the momentum of their sudden rise to success. Well, I can see clearer than ever that this quick fame catch is justified. Imagine Michael Gira under the influence of Melvins and/or The Pop Group, produced by Shellac, playing songs in homage to Pere Ubu. Now play around with the order of those names a few times and you’ll get this album’s tracklist. Their songs rarely follow any predictable structure, you can rarely pinpoint a specific influence on a specific track or a moment, the ruthlessness in songs rarely comes from the same kind of song-writing and the energy, delivery style and instrumental components are rarely static. “953” is a blast of noise and punk extravagance. “Speedway” delves into much dub-infused post-punk, while the follower “Reggae” contains a catchy goth-like vocal tune and delivery with instruments that almost feel like jazz fusion. A more straightforward noise punk on “Near DT, MI” and a complete opposite on the more drawn-out, in-every-direction-reaching, sophisticated “Western”. “Of Schlagenheim” at times feels like a mix of dancepunk and prog. “bmbmbm” then takes a turn for no wave. “Years Ago” applies bluesy song-writing to an insane noisy instrumentation and production. Then the closer “Ducter” then sums the album up beautifully in a cacophony of danceability, mild progressive calm, cluster*** of boisterous blistering production and eventual climax in the utter musical insanity of sounds and noises. And all of a sudden, the brief album is over; all of its piercing guitarwork that can turn quiet and thoughtful; all of its rowdy drumming that are at times reminiscent of a musical equivalent of spasm-filled killing spree; its collection of brief, in-the-moment jumps from genre to genre, from style to style, from influence to influence, from anarchistic disorganisation to pedantic order. Schlagenheim
is nothing if not a meticulously crafted chaos, a stroke of genius in a petri dish of insanity and a beautifully zany turn on a conventional structure of music.