black midi - Schlagenheim - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

black midi - Schlagenheim

by Tim Sentz Rating:9 Release Date:2019-06-21
black midi - Schlagenheim
black midi - Schlagenheim

There are two sides to post-punk in 2019. You have those who will stick to the formula, and make modest contributions to the genre ala Bauhaus and Joy Division homages - Preoccupations, Ought, Shame, IDLES, etc. - and then you have those who are willing to push the boundaries the genre encompasses, thus making it harder to pinpoint what exactly they are - King Krule, Iceage, Nick Cave and Savages have taken the genre in unexpected directions at times, leaving one to wonder if it’s even still related to the pioneers of the genre.

black midi sit firmly in the latter. The London-based band have taken a new approach to guitar based rock music, infusing it with the chaotic nature of early Swans, but melding it organically with the modern influences of Danny Brown of all people. The avant-garde rapper from Detroit has made a name for himself in the 2010s for his frenetic, sometimes grating, alt rap has been a major hit with fans and critics. black midi pulls influences from across the spectrum - in addition to Brown, there’s elements of Death Grips, Deerhoof, Franz Ferdinand, and Boredoms, with their debut album Schlagenheim, they’ve firmly placed themselves at the forefront of post-punk in the 21st century.

From the opening freakout of “953” that transitions from this pummeling noise rock to crystalline riffage leading to the Jesus Lizard-esque caterwaul of lead singer Geordie Greep, it becomes apparent that this is not your average post-punk band. And while Greep’s vocals at first seem like a mimicry of Tim Darcy of Ought - that very British accented sound that post-punk seems to love to imitate non-stop - the support of the rest of the band makes it abundantly clear that black midi are not content to just rehash old ideas.

With “Speedway” and “Reggae” the quartet veers towards very ear-pleasing melodies that seem to pick up momentum as they progress - like two connected pieces of a larger narrative building to the climax. Schlagenheim drips with the most explosive tendencies of experimental rock like Deerhoof’s The Runners Four or even to some extent Washing Machine-era Sonic Youth. This isn’t to say that black midi is just imitating, their music feels wholly original even if their influences are apparent right off the bat. Schlagenheim seems content to house the talents of the entire band within every song - the sprawling centerpiece “Western” is proof that black midi are a hivemind, weaving back and forth to each member not in a “hey lets do a drum solo” but more of an “it’s your turn to tell the story.” It’s this type of mentality that makes Schlagenheim an overwhelming success.

There aren’t really a lot of acts doing what black midi do, as well as they do either. Their live shows are notorious for being intense experiences, very similar to how folks toted Iceage back in their early days, and it makes sense too since just like Iceage at that stage in their career all of black midi are fairly young - some still in their teens. But as music approaches a new decade, the same ideas need to evolve if they are to survive. This is something black midi acknowledge, and something that propels them forward - this is ever present on “Of Schlagenheim,” the closest we’ll get to a title track, and it covers a vast array of styles and influences across its 6 minutes. What begins as a slow building drum based track morphs repeatedly, keeping you on the edge of your seat the whole time. It channels Ian Curtis one moment, then delves into full-on powerhouse screeching ala Peter Murphy. You can’t fake this kind of dedication, this is pure, meticulously assembled post-punk - far from the derivative cesspool most post-punk seems to come from these days.

The band has stated that in a few years time they won’t even sound like this, pushing more abstract than before. Even if this turns out to be false, it takes nothing away from Schlagenheim. It’s a spectacular debut album. It holds nothing back, and even when it feels like it’s about to let up, it pushes further and further into some kind of black hole that’s constantly evolving and revealing more intricacies.

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