Black Midi had released very little music as I walked down the steps to the EartH concert hall. In fact, when I first heard of the band from a friend of a friend of the band at a gig a year ago, they had released no music at all.
Much of the band’s following has been formed in a similar way, through word of mouth. Their enigmatic presence turns their live shows into an exclusive experience, a rare feat in the modern age. For much of the set the band is in darkness illuminated only by a faint red, occasionally pierced by strobe lights like lightning in a thunderstorm.
The band say nothing between songs; in fact there is barely a second in the entire set when they aren’t playing, making it difficult to tell when each song starts and ends. The only music played between the set and opening act. Rattle comprises of droning synths. The only personality the band show is while playing.
Vocalists/guitarists Geordie Greep and Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin wear cowboy hats. Towards the end of the set Matt falls while jumping off a raised section of stage holding Morgan Simpson’s drum kit and kicking it away, meanwhile Geordie throws what I can only guess to be a carpet tile across the stage. Their guitars are left face down on the stage at the end of the show while bassist Cameron Picton helps stagehands clean up. At the start of the second song Geordie peels a banana and takes a bite out of it before throwing it back and singing the first verse; after the show I catch a glimpse of him finishing it backstage.
Even with their lack of released music a respectably large crowd fills their sold-out show in the EartH concert hall, after all they have been called “the best band in London” by the NME. One thing is certain however, Black Midi have not gained their following through the accessibility of their music.
The band’s name refers to the act of using MIDI files to remix songs to contain a huge number of notes. And they live up to their name, a chaotic amalgamation of noise rock, math rock, no wave, and experimental rock held together by Morgan’s aggressive drumming (described as “the best drummer in London” by the same fan who introduced me to the band). Geordie’s voice is nigh on incomprehensible, varying between an almost spoken word style and high-pitched howls while Matt delivers his own post-hardcore screams. Between the angular guitar riffs and heavy distorted basslines there are several moments where the band comes together to form an explosive wall of pure discordant noise. Actually, for the majority of the show this is the case.
Nobody in the audience seems to mind. Despite the fact their music could reasonably be described as “painful”, there is a sense within the crowd that something great is being witnessed; a feeling that, through the searing avalanche of sound, history is being made. Some claim modern rock is dead, that the genre has become stagnant, continuously recycling and diluting sounds until nothing original is left. By the time Black Midi walk off stage any notion of this has been utterly obliterated by a sledgehammer forged from a fire of screeching guitar noise.
- 5 stars