- Influenced By: Can, King Crimson, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Talking Heads, Slint, Deerhoof, Death Grips, Danny Brown, Marlene Dietrich, Hella, Swans, Meredith Monk, Igor Stravinsky, Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, Marvin Gaye, El Lebrijano, John Renbourn
- Associated artists: Rosie Alena, Black Country, New Road, Squid, Damo Suzuki, Jerskin Fendrix, Battles, Fat Tony, Injury Reserve
Black Midi is a weird band from London. Though they're named after an infamously noisy genre of electronic music, they are in fact a Genre-Busting rock act. Their complex sound blends elements of noise rock, math rock, Post-Punk, Post-Rock, progressive rock, jazz and no wave into a cohesive but undefinable whole, marked by off-kilter grooves, improvisational jamming, and frontman Geordie Greep's bizarre vocals.
The members of Black Midi all met each other at various jam sessions while they were attending the BRIT School in London together. They first came to wide attention in November 2018, when they performed several then untitled songs at a festival in Iceland. The set was uploaded to YouTube and gained attention across the internet, building hype for their debut LP. After releasing a live album with Damo Suzuki of Can, as well as two non-album singles, "Talking Heads" and "Crow's Perch", that album, called Schlagenheim, was released to widespread acclaim.
In 2021, they announced their second full length Cavalcade, heralded by the single "John L". The album adds saxophonist Kaidi Akinnibi and keyboardist Seth Evans to the band's lineup. It released May 28th.
Work began on a third LP almost immediately, with multiple songs being debuted live. On May 9th, 2022, they announced their third full length album Hellfire, and released a video for the opening track "Welcome to Hell". A second single, "Eat Men Eat", dropped on June 15th, and a third, "Sugar/Tzu" on July 12th. The full album dropped on July 15th, and again received favorable reviews across the board.
- Geordie Greep - Vocals, guitar
- Cameron Picton - Vocals, bass, keyboards
- Morgan Simpson - Drums
- Kaidi Akinnibi - Saxophone
- Seth Evans - Keyboard
- Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin - Guitar
- damo suzuki live at the windmill brixton with 'sound carriers' black midi (2019, live collab with Damo Suzuki)
- "Crow's Perch" (2019, single)
- "Talking Heads" (2019, single)
- Schlagenheim (2019)
- "ded sheeran (ed sheeran send) part 1" (2020, single/shitpost)
- "Sweater" (2020, single, recorded in 2018 as part of Schlagenheim sessions)
- Black Midi Live in the USA (2020, live album)
- The Black Midi Anthology Vol. 1: Tales of Suspense and Revenge (2020, spoken word/jam album)
- "John L/Despair" (2021, single)
- Cavalcade (2021)
- "Cruising" (2021, single)
- "Cavalcovers" (2022, EP)
- Hellfire (2022)
She moves with a purpose:
- Album Intro Track: Cavalcade has one in the form of a Hidden Track on physical releases. It runs for 91 seconds and is largely just a Drone of Dread reminiscent of the infamous THX sound effect.
- Hellfire has one in the form of its title track, a brief 84-second, lyric-heavy song which transitions seamlessly into the boxing announcement on "Sugar/Tzu".
- Album Title Drop: In "Western"."I spent all your cash by the time I got to Schlagenheim"
"Freddie Frost blew up to the size of a hot air balloon / Red as all hellfire and loud as Satan's siren"
- "27 Questions" has one in its outro.
- All Drummers Are Animals: Averted with Morgan, who is about as calculated as the rest of the band while performing.
- all lowercase letters: Their name is typically rendered as such.
- Animal Motifs: Geordie loves singing about anteaters, mentioning them in "Western" and "John L".
- Animated Music Video:
- Animesque: The "Jerkhead" sections of the "Slow" video, mixed with a bit of Adventure Time. "Fantastic Knight XI" seems to be going for more of a sci-fi JRPG aesthetic similar to recent Final Fantasy games.
- Art Shift: Happens 3 or 4 times in the video for "Slow", which starts off with hand drawn animation, switches to monochrome CG, goes into a Sensory Abuse freakout of Deranged Animation for a bit, and then switches to live action for the final act.
- Audio Adaptation: Tales of Suspense and Revenge contains readings of "A Woman's Confession" by Guy de Maupassant, "Who is to Pay?" by Robert Tressell (an excerpt from the novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists), "Out of Season" by Ernest Hemingway, and "Hop Toad" by Edgar Allan Poe set to weird improv jams.
- Bilingual Bonus: Matt does some scatting in broken Polish on "Years Ago". According to him, he doesn't actually speak Polish, but simply wanted to pay tribute to his heritage.
- Black Comedy: Many of the band's narrative songs feature pitch-black humour.
- "John L" is about a cult leader whose followers turn on him, tear him limb from limb and feed him to ant eaters.
- "Sugar/Tzu" is about a boxing match, narrated from the perspective of a pathetic, diminutive loner (possibly a child) who wins notoriety by shooting one of the boxers in the back during the match, thus allowing his opponent to win, becoming "the youngest executioner in tabloid memory". The music video, which dramatises the narrative, features additional dark humour in the form of Sugar's wife weeping over his body before taking a series of selfies over the bullet wound as he bleeds out.
- "Eat Men Eat" is a pulpy horror story about two men who, after losing their friends in the desert, end up at a strange mining facility where they are encouraged to consume "whiskey, onions and chilis". The food is of course poisoned. After the meal everyone who ate ends up having their stomach pumped for excess acid to be used in the production of wine. The two men subsequently escape and destroy the facility. The Captain leaps from the flames and curses the men to acid reflux for the rest of their days, which is both a hilarious and terrifying threat.
- Bodyguard Babes: John L has "three rows of pale brunettes" to protect him from the crowd. They don't work so well against anteaters, however.
- Boléro Effect:
- "Ducter" features a very Slint sounding crescendo on the chorus.
- "7 Eleven" uses this alongside a spoken word monologue, probably making it the band's only fully fledged Post-Rock song.
- "Bmbmbm" and "Years Ago" also use this to a lesser extent, though in the former's case it's primarily just Geordie's vocals that increase in intensity while the rest of the band carries on a plodding beat, eventually leading to a massive instrumental climax.
- "Diamond Stuff" slowly unfolds from a nearly inaudible intro to a lush, jazzy soundscape.
- "Ascending Forth" builds up over the course of its 9 minute runtime from a single acoustic guitar to a massive climax topped with a Big Rock Ending.
- Breaking Speech: The narrator of "Ducter" is subjected to one of these, but it apparently fails to move him (or so he claims).
- Careful with That Axe: All of them are capable of this, though Geordie and Cameron are the most prominent. Geordie, being Geordie, sounds like Yoko Ono or the Great Cornholio when he does it, while Cameron has a more conventional Post-Hardcore-style shriek.
- Child Prodigy: Morgan has been playing drums since he was 4, which shows through in his absolutely effortless playing.
- Cluster F-Bomb: "Eat Men Eat" ends with the antagonistic Captain screaming during his Villainous Breakdown..."YOU FUCKING FAGGOTS AIN'T SEEN THE LAST OF ME YET!
I'LL HAVE THE LAST LAUGH
YOU CUNTS SOON YOU'LL SEE!"
- Cold Ham: Geordie Greep is renowned for his absolutely insane vocals, but he remains completely stoic whenever he performs them live.
- Concept Video:
- "Slow" and "Welcome to Hell" both have videos that tell an apparently continuous story set in the same universe which appears to be only thematically related to the lyrics of the songs.
- "Eat Men Eat" is a black and white short film that actually does tell the story of the song, albeit in a rather strange way that borders on Le Film Artistique.
- "Sugar/Tzu" depicts the story related in the lyrics pretty much beat-for-beat.
- Country Matters: Dropped right after a couple of F bombs in "Eat Men Eat".
- Credits Gag: "Helicopter pilot - Helicopter".Explanation
- Creepy Monotone: Cameron's singing tends to be like this, which at times can make him sound like an English Brian McMahan. He's capable of some pretty hellish screams, though.
- Crossover: Black Midi, New Road, their collaborative project with fellow London genre benders Black Country, New Road.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The video for "Eat Men Eat".
- Deranged Animation: The CG animation in the video for "Slow" can only be described as a 3D rendering program experiencing brain death.
- Distinct Double Album: The first half of Tales of Suspense and Revenge is the band members reading various classic short stories over musical backing, while the second half contains the unedited instrumentals from the first half.
- Double Standard: Alluded to in "Marlene Dietrich" as a reason why the title character has become a White-Dwarf Starlet."While a kiss on the lips may not
Make a frog a prince
An orgasm renders any queen a witch
- Early-Bird Cameo: The main riffs to "Reggae" and "Years Ago", both unwritten at the time, show up on their live jam with Damo Suzuki.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: John L's Bodyguard Babes are mentioned as being this.
- The End of the World as We Know It: About the simplest way to sum up what happens in the video for "Slow".
- Epic Instrumental Opener: "953" opens with a thunderous 2 minute jam before it gives way to a quiet acoustic portion, which Geordie then begins singing over.
- Epic Rocking:
- "Western" (8:08), "Of Schlagenheim" (6:24) and "Ducter" (6:42) on Schlagenheim.
- Both tracks on their live album with Damo Suzuki are 19 minutes each.
- "Sweater" is 11:30, making it their longest studio track so far.
- Live in the USA contains a 14 minute rendition of "Ducter", and other performances have been known to stretch the song out even longer.
- With the exception of "Who is to Pay?" and "A Woman's Confession" (itself a hefty 11:17), every track on Tales of Suspense and Revenge is at least 15 minutes long, with the three unedited instrumentals clocking in at 24:45, 23:57, and 15:40.
- Cavalcade has "Diamond Stuff" (6:25) and "Ascending Forth" (9:46).
- Hellfire has "The Race is About to Begin" (7:15).
- Everyone Went to School Together: Art school, at any rate. The members all met each other while attending the BRIT School together.
- Everything Is an Instrument: That rumbling sound around a minute into "John L" is an actual helicopter flying low over the studio in the middle of recording. The band kept it in because they liked the effect, and even went so far as to credit the pilot on the single (they're credited with "helicopter").
- Fading into the Next Song:
- "Of Schlagenheim" into "Bmbmbm", "Years Ago" into "Ducter" on Schlagenheim.
- "Diamond Stuff" into "Dethroned" on Cavalcade.
- Fantasy-Forbidding Father: "953" seems to be from the perspective of one.
- Genre-Busting: They pull from so many different genres that "experimental rock" is about the only label that sticks.
- Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Done to the protagonist in "Welcome to Hell"."If not for you it would've been cholera, malaria, or some eastern disease
Forget about it, son, a slap is all you need!"
- Green Aesop: "Speedway" is a bleak depiction of urban development, while "Near DT, MI" is a furious Protest Song against the Flint Water Crisis.
- Half the Man He Used to Be: The protagonist of the live action section of "Slow" gets cut in half by a meteor from the approaching planet.
- Harsh Vocals: Matt does some throat-shredding screams on "Years Ago".
- History Repeats: The "Ducter" video has a theme of the rise and fall of civilizations, showing a castle evolving into a modern city, only for the city to be consumed by flood water. In turn, a large tower rises from the frozen water, only for it to collapse again at the end of the video.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: "John L" is about a cult leader who gets overthrown by his own fanatical followers after driving them too far."The gargling non-song whips throng into a frenzy
And the echoes of his crooning now cease to be heard
No-longer pale brunettes are broken in two
And thrown to the snouts of the anteater crew
John L is in tatters, his soapbox usurped
His torn robes adorn the tree stumps of the earth
No hack with an army will last long before he
Breeds men who yearn for their own bloody glory"
- Improv: Most of Schlagenheim was constructed from extended jamming sessions, and it also plays an important part in their live set. Their commitment to this even extends to the vocals, as Geordie is well known for never singing a song the same way twice. They curtailed this a bit on Cavalcade, having gotten bored with improv and resolving to compose more of the material in advance.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: The vocals in "Years Ago" are so distorted it's hard to suss out more than a few individual syllables. Their collaboration with Damo Suzuki also features this as a matter of course.
- On "Hellfire" and especially "The Race is About to Begin", Geordie sings so fast that many of his words start to blend together.
- In the Style of: "Talking Heads" is a tribute to, uh, Talking Heads.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: The antagonist in "Ducter" is described as one."He does not view things as they are
But he views them as they fit into a plan"
- Lead Bassist: Cameron when he does lead vocals.
- Life Will Kill You: Seems to be the point of "7 Eleven".
- Limited Lyrics Song: "Bmbmbm" features precisely four different lyrics, all repeated interchangeably and with increasing levels of derangement: "She moves with a purpose", "What a magnificent purpose", "They find different ways to suck themselves off", and "She does not care at all".
- Literary Allusion Title: "Diamond Stuff" is named after the novel We are Diamond Stuff by Isabel Waidner.
- Longest Song Goes Last: "Ascending Forth" (9:46) on Cavalcade.
- Look Both Ways: In "7-Eleven", the narrator fails to do this, with presumably tragic consequences.
- Loudness War: Unfortunately, the CD of Hellfire is squished badly; it's DR4. Cavalcade isn't much better at DR5. Schlagenheim is a more defensible DR7.
- Madness Mantra:
- "Bmbmbm" is entirely this, as Geordie repeats the same four lines of lyrics in an increasingly maniacal tone until he's basically screaming gibberish.
- "Near DT, MI" has Cameron screaming "THERE'S LEAD IN THE WATER" repeatedly at the end.
- "Ducter" has "He could not break me" repeated with increasing intensity on the chorus, until it devolves into manic screaming.
- Mickey Mousing: Employed in a few of their music videos.
- In the music video for "John L", the strange, disjointed riff is represented by dancers doing a kind of halting step-dance. The rumbling helicopter about a minute represents waves of psychic energy coming off an obelisk.
- In the music video for "Sugar/Tzu", the action of the boxers fighting is represented by the frenetic sections. A boxer ripples his pecs in time to a drum fill, and the shooting that ends the video is also punctuated by power chords.
- In the music video for "Welcome to Hell", all of the action in the video is timed to the music. This includes a sequence in which the protagonist is cast into Hell by a woman he is stalking; the woman discovering his stalking is timed to a "thrash" section at the song's climax; and the final battle sequence that culminates in the death of the protagonist and his victim is timed to the song's final crescendo.
- Mind Screw: They don't quite have Word Salad Lyrics, but some of their songs almost sound like they were written by Lewis Carroll, especially "Western" and "Of Schlagenheim"."And a pink caterpillar with six anorexic children let me stay
But I had to keep moving
Through anteater town after anteater town after anteater town after anteater town..."
- Minimalism: "Bmbmbm" features exactly one note and four lines of lyrics. It kicks ass anyway.
- Miniscule Rocking: "Near DT, MI" and "Years Ago" are both under 3 minutes.
- Hellfire has "Hellfire" (1:24), an intro track, and "Half Time" (0:26), an interlude.
- Mood Whiplash: The incredibly noisy outro of "Hogwash and Balderdash" cuts right into the beautiful acoustic intro of "Ascending Forth" without warning.
- Motor Mouth: The lyrics to "John L" are rapidly delivered in spoken word. "The Race Is About to Begin" has another impressive example.
- N-Word Privileges: Cam, who is gay, shouts a certain homophobic slur very loudly at the climax of "Eat Men Eat." See Cluster F-Bomb for details.
- New Sound Album: Cavalcade has noticeably more influence from jazz fusion than Schlagenheim did, adding a saxophonist and keyboardist as full time band members and featuring even more complex song structures. Additionally, while Schlagenheim was largely born out of improv sessions, the band set out to write out more of the music in advance on Cavalcade.
- Nightmare Face: The "Ducter" video keeps cutting to Renaissance portraits which have been digitally warped to give this effect.
- No Ending: "Years Ago" abruptly cuts out to a chorus of wailing voices, which is then cut off by a crash, which then fades into "Ducter". The effect is rather Python-esque.
- Non-Indicative Name: They do not in fact play black MIDI music. While we're on the topic, "Reggae" isn't a reggae song.
- Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Cameron, in contrast to Geordie's more chanson-esque crooning.
- Piss-Take Rap: Morgan, Cameron, and Geordie all take turns doing this on "ded sheeran".
- Politically Incorrect Villain: The Captain in "Eat Men Eat" is a drunken homophobe.
- Precision F-Strike:
- There's one in the Wham Line in "7 Eleven".
- "Ducter" has "Diagnose if you wish, but please first take your hands off your dick".
- Protest Song: "Near DT, MI" is an atypically straightforward example for them, protesting the US government's inaction on the Flint Water Crisis.
- Pun-Based Title: "Ascending Forth" is a play on "Ascending fourths", a type of diatonic scale referenced repeatedly in the song.
- Purple Prose: Geordie's tracks can approach Peter Sinfield levels of this at times.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Stoic, eccentric Geordie vs. manic headbanger Matt.
- Sampling: "Bmbmbm" uses a sample of a woman having an emotional meltdown on Big Brother as a background sound effect. When they play it live, Matt literally "plays" the sample on his guitar by queuing it up on his smartphone and then holding the speaker to his pickups.
- Show Within a Show: The video for "Slow" has "Jerkhead", a vaguely animesque superhero cartoon, and "Fantastic Knight XI", an apparent Final Fantasy pastiche with very unsettling graphics. Both are developed by a company called Deicide.
- Signature Style: There are pretty distinct differences between Geordie and Cameron's approaches to songwriting. Geordie tends to have very verbose, surreal lyrics with highly expressive vocals and elaborate, multifaceted song structures, while Cameron goes for a more minimalist approach, with cryptic bits of Looped Lyrics delivered in a creepy monotone over a steadily intensifying soundscape. To oversimpify, Geordie's songs sound more like King Crimson, while Cameron's sound more like Slint.
- Song Style Shift: "Western" and "Of Schlagenheim" go through multiple different phases throughout their runtimes.
- Spoken Word in Music: "7 Eleven" has Cameron telling a "Shaggy Dog" Story in an exaggerated cowboy accent.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: "7 Eleven" is the story of how the narrator went to the store to get a newspaper and cigarette, ran into a blind man who told him to be careful, and then got hit by a truck.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: "Welcome to Hell" is about Private Tristan Bongo, a young, traumatized conscript of some massive imperial war who throws himself into hedonism and debauchery while on leave to try and forget the horrors he's seen.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: "Ducter" is about a debate between the narrator and some ambiguous authority figure that concludes with one.Every quote just eats itself with a different perspective
He recycles points with a different tone of voice
From a lack of any reaction
he begins to become complacent
I have the upper hand now
All I need to do is speak
I say, "Diagnose if you wish
but please first take your hands off your dick"
- Siamese Twin Songs: "Dethroned" cuts right to "Hogwash and Balderdash" with nearly no transition.
- Slave Mooks: In "John L" the anteaters are implied to be this to John L. They manage to overthrow him at the end of the song, however.
- Sociopathic Soldier: The narrator of "Welcome to Hell" is outright proud of the atrocities he's committed, and spends the whole song encouraging the Shell-Shocked Veteran protagonist to get over his PTSD and revel in the life of a mercenary."We did it all, we seen it all
And worse, much worse, son
The massacres of ages
Too many to recall"
- Stepford Suburbia: "Speedway" is a song advertising a new suburban development, but the Creepy Monotone vocals and minor chords on the refrain give it a distinctly dystopian vibe.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Matt does the screams on "Years Ago" and Morgan raps a bit on "ded sheeran".
- Stop and Go: Used to great effect in "John L", where the verses are punctuated by bursts of abrupt silence that ratchet the tension up further each time they happen.
- Stylistic Suck:
- Surreal Music Video: The only kind they do.
- Between its deliberately low quality visuals and Koyaanisqatsi-esque imagery, "Ducter" definitely qualifies.
- "John L" features a bunch of dancers in red colored lycra suits paying homage to a cyclopean obelisk being against the backdrop of a CG landscape that looks like an Adult Swim remake of The Wizard of Oz. That's about as straightforward as we can put it.
- "Slow" is easily the weirdest one yet, combining traditional animation with uncanny CG and live action footage to tell a bizarre tale about a planet colliding with a dystopian future Earth.
- "Sugar/Tzu" is a fairly literal interpretation of the song's story (a boxing match in which the child narrator shoots one of the boxers) but with very Lynchian touches, including a talking monkey as the announcer, faceless audience members, and a referee with a VR headset twisting and contorting around like a creature from Jacob's Ladder.
- "Welcome to Hell" expands on the story of a character from the Slow video mentioned above. Eagle-eyed viewers have managed to decode the strange hieroglyphics seen throughout the video into English phrases that give some insight into the plot. In essence, it is the story of a man who becomes infatuated with a beautiful woman and begins stalking her. The man is depicted as a misogynist loser who hangs out in "incel bars". The woman discovers what he has been doing, and sends him to Hell. The man emerges from Hell, becoming the embittered character we see at the start of "Slow". He then returns to confront the woman, and she cuts him in two, but not before he kills her in turn, unleashing an angel of death that devours them both and destroys the world. The video ends on text that reads "YOU RUINED IT FOR EVERYONE".
- Take That!: "ded sheeran" contains a brutal one to Ed Sheeran.Morgan: Hahaha, my name's Ed Sheeran, look at me with my jeans and white t-shirt and acoustic guitar plugged into my loop pedal! Oh my GOD, you greedy piece of shit man! FUCK YOU MAN! How are you gonna do that? You're just taking everyone's money! Remember that time at The Windmill when you took my shit, you took my drum sticks? Yeah, FUCK YOU!
- The video for "Slow" features a website called "Faux News" with a layout that rather resembles the website for The Guardian.
- Textless Album Cover: Schlagenheim just has a modernist sculpture that resembles a bunch of buildings, machines, parts of vehicles, and complex geometric shapes melted together with a green square in the top left corner. It's actually quite accurate to the sound of the record. "Sweater" features a similar sculpture done by the same artist.
- True Companions: They all seem to be very good friends, and have said in interviews that their sound is so elastic as a simple result of trying to accommodate each member's diverse talents and influences.
- Uncommon Time: Used in almost every song.
- Villain Song:
- "Sugar/Tzu" has the narrator proudly recounting how he murdered a man to get famous.
- "Welcome to Hell" is sung from the perspective of a Sociopathic Soldier encouraging one of his comrades to completely abandon his conscience and embrace the depravities of war. Near the end of the song he gets so fed up with the other man's symptoms of shell shock that he threatens to kill him before discharging him from the military.
- The narrator of "Dangerous Liaisons" accepts a contract to murder a man from a gangster who is later revealed to be the devil himself.
- "The Defence" is about a pimp defending his business as no more immoral than banking and trying to justify himself by saying that his prostitutes wouldn't amount to much anyway.
- Vocal Tag Team: Geordie has the lion's share of lead vocals, but Cameron sings lead on a few songs as well. "Talking Heads" has them both trading off verses.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Like many rock drummers, Morgan tends to shed his shirt pretty early on in their shows.
- War Is Hell: "Welcome to Hell" contains some pretty gnarly descriptions of men being blown apart and civilians being forced into lives of degradation as a result of their country being invaded.
- Wham Line: "So I got to the curb and got out my keys, the RV was just on the other side. I began to cross. I pushed the button to unlock it. And as I reached for the door, a great big fuckoff truck went straight through me."
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: Geordie's accent is extremely idiosyncratic and difficult to place, with some describing it as either sounding somewhat Irish, South African, or French. Apparently, it's a very specific London dialect. Note that he doesn't just put on that voice when he sings, it's what he actually sounds like.
- White-Dwarf Starlet: The titular character in "Marlene Dietrich" is presented as being past her prime and facing derision from her audience but still managing to bring to joy to the narrator.
- Widget Series: A Weird British Thing to be sure.
- A Wild Rapper Appears!: American rapper Fat Tony guests on two tracks on Live in the USA, spitting over "Jam 1" and "Bmbmbm".
- Word Salad Lyrics: "Years Ago" is just a series of unfinished sentences and random scatting, based on a video of an Alabama rapper trying and failing to freestyle on live TV. "Bmbmbm" also arguably qualifies; while the concepts expressed are basically coherent, the method of delivery more resembles an increasingly manic series of compulsive thoughts, with no actual meaning behind the words.