Wilf Skinner investigates the Black Midi hype
It’s Black Midi’s first birthday party: a year ago to the day they played here, billed as ‘Experimental London duo and purveyors of the darkest dreamscapes’. The sweaty Windmill venue in Brixton is their nexus, the basis of the group’s mythology; it’s welcomed them loads of times, and a fair amount of footage is on YouTube. Along the way, the group has added two more members. And more recently, they’ve released a single (and a B-side) and supported Preoccupations, Warmduscher and Omni. Tonight, then, should feel like a celebration, a chance to take stock of the past 12 months and look towards the next few.
Of course, the group refuses largely to indulge in that, striking an austere tone from the word go. They bring to mind the abrasiveness and studied intensity of groups like Slint and Shellac, all angular and down-tuned.
The vocals emerge as probably the most polarising facet of their sound – there are shades of Ween and Blood Brothers, a Jello-Biafra-in-Selhurst kind of thing going on. The drummer is superlatively off-kilter but somehow manages to hold things together, and a large part of their appeal no doubt rests in their ability to harness this tension.
They end – not triumphantly, mind – with single ‘bmbmbm’. Released through Speedy Wunderground, whose Dogme 95-style ‘ten-point plan’ set out rules such as ‘Recording of all records will be done in one day and finish before midnight’ (with ‘no lunch break’), it’s made waves since its release at the end of May. Live, it sounds more expansive, slightly rawer, imbued with that same rigour and flintiness.
A recently created Instagram, a more active Facebook page, higher profile support slots, older men with rucksacks and searching expressions among the crowd; the demystification process is clearly underway. You’ve got to hope ‘market forces’ don’t shape them for the worse, and you do wonder how long they can cultivate the ‘mysterious’ and ‘serious’ posture for amid all this (quite justified) hype.
Featured image credit: NTS