London’s Black Midi carved out a cult following almost immediately after forming in 2017, and continued garnering acclaim as their sound quickly expanded, fusing genres such as math rock, prog, post-punk, and avant-jazz. A handful of video recordings of their live shows and the 2018 single “bmbmbm” were strong enough to gather significant buzz around their meticulously constructed yet feral rock sounds. The band released their 2019 debut album, Schlagenheim, to critical acclaim, and follow-ups Cavalcade (2021) and Hellfire (2022) found the band bringing even more disparate elements into their dynamic and undulating sound.
Initially consisting of guitarist/vocalist Geordie Greep, lead guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin, bassist Cameron Picton, and drummer Morgan Simpson, the Croydon, England four-piece formed after graduating from the performing arts institution The BRIT School in 2017. In contrast to the more mainstream acts the school has produced — including Amy Winehouse and the Kooks — Black Midi produced angular, experimental post-punk. Forming part of a South London scene alongside acts like Shame, Goat Girl, and HMLTD, the newly minted band became a regular at Brixton’s favorite new-band haunt The Windmill.
Unlike their peers, Black Midi maintained a mysterious air by conducting hardly any interviews and largely shunning social media. Yet they soon earned media notice with their intense live shows, and in 2018, the band performed a live session for radio station NTS at Flesh & Bone Studios in Hackney. They also backed former Can frontman Damo Suzuki during a performance at The Windmill. Later that year, they released their debut single on producer Dan Carey’s (Bat for Lashes, Kate Tempest) Speedy Wunderground label. The song “bmbmbm” was a jittery and delirious track, built on tight grooves and explosions of noise. The band’s debut LP, Schlagenheim, arrived in June of 2019. In November of that year, Black Midi digitally released a song titled “7-11” (it had previously appeared in their live sets as “Cameron’s Song”), and the following February, they debuted “Sweater,” an 11-minute outtake from the Schlagenheim sessions. “Sweater” was given a physical release as a 12″ vinyl single in July 2020, with “7-11” as the B-side. 2020 also saw the release of The Black Midi Anthology, Vol. 1: Tales of Suspense and Revenge, an online-only release of four tracks made up of spoken word over improvised jams.
In January of 2021, Kwasniewski-Kelvin announced he’d be temporarily stepping away from the band to focus on his mental health. He was not included in recording sessions that took place for the group’s second album, but his absence was filled by touring members Kaidi Akinnibi and Seth Evans. Sophomore album Cavalcade was released in late May of 2021. Limited EP Live-Cade appeared near the end of the year, and the EP Cavalcovers was released in March of 2022, containing songs originally performed by King Crimson, Taylor Swift, and Captain Beefheart that were initially included on limited flexi-discs that came with pre-ordered copies of Cavalcade. “Welcome to Hell” and the acoustic-tinged “Eat Men Eat” preceded the band’s third album, Hellfire, which arrived in July. ~ Bekki Bemrose