Black Midi – “John L” & “Despair”
Just about two years ago, we named Black Midi a Band To Watch on the strength of their contorted, bugged-out, wholly idiosyncratic debut Schlagenheim — which also turned out to be one of the best albums of 2019. Even with a pandemic derailing Black Midi’s ability to tour (and our ability to see their mind-altering live show), they’ve kept busy in recent times. They took to performing radio plays during early quarantine, and later joined their fellow London experimentalists Black Country, New Road for a tribute show at the Windmill Brixton, at which they all covered “Born To Run.” They even made time for some surprisingly conventional Christmas covers. All along, the group were also preparing a sophomore album. It’s called Cavalcade, and it’s out at the end of May.
Thematically, Cavalcade is a series of character sketches, anything from a cult leader whose following is turning on him to Marlene Dietrich. “When you’re listening, you can imagine all the characters form a sort of cavalcade,” Cameron Picton said in a statement. “Each tells their story one by one and as each track ends they overtake you, replaced by the next in line.”
Musically, the band went into the album with a completely different approach than on Schlagenheim. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in the improvisation myth of divine intervention, that if a song doesn’t happen in the room naturally without it being guided by someone specifically, when we’re all just feeling the vibe, then it’s not proper and it’s not pure,” Geordie Greep said of their process. The individual members wrote more at home, and brought in collaborators to add piano, saxophone, and violin — all in an effort to make something that was more complex and arranged vs. how they had coaxed Schlagenheim‘s songs out of jams.
Along with the announcement, Black Midi have shared lead single/opening track “John L,” the aforementioned cult leader song. It comes with a pretty wild video directed by choreographer Nina McNeely, who’s also worked on projects like Rihanna’s “Sledgehammer” clip and Gaspar Noe’s Climax. They also shared its B-side, “Despair.” Check both out below.
01 “John L”
02 “Marlene Dietrich”
03 “Chondromalacia Patella”
05 “Diamond Stuff”
07 “Hogwash And Balderdash”
08 “Ascending Forth”
Cavalcade is out 5/28 via Rough Trade.