black midi - Schlagenheim, a review (sorta)


I’ve been listening a lot this week to the debut album by London band black midi. Schlagenheim is the title.

It’s a compelling, brilliant, but often unpleasant sort of listen. That four people found each other at school and decided it would be a blast to make this sort of noise together is in itself rather remarkable.

I don’t enjoy large parts of the album (but I also love its every instant). And I can’t stop listening to it. I wander the streets grumbling. I like the bits that remind me of King Crimson (and there are plenty of them). Robert Fripp’s influence is all over this record. And I like the lead singer’s intensity. He reminds me, in his fuck-you focus, of Elias Bender Rønnenfelt from the wonderful Copenhagen band Iceage. I like how unhinged this music can be. How visceral and essential one moment and so off-putting the next. Along with the noise and the metal and the punk and the math rock here, there is also a violently dark sort of jazz noodling too, and you should know that I mostly fucking hate jazz.

These are young men. I doubt they’ve hit twenty. And so I watch them and imagine my fifteen-year-old son up there with them. How would I feel about that? Well, I’d be proud and worried in equal measure. What records have these kids been listening to? Who the hell sells that sort of racket? And what books have they been reading? I’m absurdly jealous is part of it. 

This is the darkest sort of poetry. I don’t understand its line breaks or its aims. The lead singer (his name is Geordie Greep) seems to be talking in tongues some of the time. It’s a very complicated, experimental sort of physics. 

Try the video. It’s of a really well-filmed KEXP performance they gave in an Iceland studio. Give it five minutes. You’ll spend three of those minutes thinking you should probably turn it off. The lawn needs cutting, surely. But push through that. It doesn’t have to be easy. Mixed into the assault are a hundred really astonishing moments. I can imagine a future record of absolutely perfect three-minute punk songs. I have Metz when that mood strikes, of course, but black midi fold in Robert Fripp, and Deafheaven, and David Byrne and Wire, and how can you not want to check that out? Breathe deep the ungodly sprawl of it.



Geoff Barrow of the marvelous, and equally mysterious band Beak (and before that, Portishead) wrote on Twitter when the album was released: “Not feeling Black Midi” (because, yeah, we’re all trying to figure out how we feel about this band). But then he added “Good to see people gettin into Weird music though.” The capital W seems important. This really is weird shit. It’s a bad trip unless you know what’s coming. Black midi is to the brain as Beak is to the body.