Black Midi Schlagenheim Rough Trade Records
Fun fact: Black Midi’s first ever performance together was covering Neu!’s Hero at the BRIT School, where they met. Since then they’ve enjoyed an intriguing word-of-mouth rise, going from playing Brixton’s Windmill pub to being heralded as a ‘new type of British guitar band’ and ‘the UK’s weirdest group’.
It’s a lot to live up to, and Schlagenheim is a record that ticks and snaps with taut virtuosity rather than mind-melting chaos. Anchored by drummer Morgan Simpson’s mesmeric free jazz drumming, songs constrict and then explode; skittering time signatures and driving basslines blown apart by explosions of sound.
These songs – lengthy jams chiselled down to meticulously tight sonic sculptures – feel like puzzles that somehow suddenly lock into shape. Opener 953 erupts with shards of noise, Speedway makes that Neu! cover make sense and the visceral tension and release of Years Ago matches the thrill of their shapeshifting live shows.
The group’s minimal online presence and enigmatic approach has allowed a mythology to grow around them. This album doesn’t bring us closer to knowing them and lead singer Geordie Greep’s vocals – an arch, detached, performative snarl – doesn’t give much away. He alludes to social anxiety and crumbling cities, yet at times it feels staged and over thought. But as Ducter ends, giving way to teeth chattering yelping as if Greep is being electrocuted, you get the feeling this is a band who you can believe in.