Experimental rock group Black Midi’s origin story involves meeting at the Brit School, being championed by the industry and then thrust along the faultline between hype and scepticism: their explosive 2019 debut Schlagenheim was praised and scrutinised for featuring the same aesthetics of noise, no wave and post-punk found in abundance among UK DIY acts. On their second album, they shift focus to their abilities, swapping jam sessions for a more deliberate, compositional approach. They slip prog and jazz into its sludgy sonics as they tell stories spanning despair, delirium and destruction through a fantastical and absurdist lens.
John L leads the procession, its frenzied, burst-fire rounds of avant-prog pandemonium introducing shrill violin and tense tenor to the band’s sound in a baptism by fire. Geordie Greep croaks his hushed, foreboding vocals as if sat by a campfire; then Marlene Dietrich – a gentler bossa nova number – sees him slide into a crooner’s lilt. Where his voice on Schlagenheim felt like that of a haughty cynic, here he revels in the act of delivering drama.
It’s a successful evolution: the maelstrom of moods stormed across the LP is masterful, from Hogwash and Balderdash’s slapstick skronk-funk riffage and the mathy, spiralling Slow, to Diamond Stuff’s tidal post-rock and Dethroned’s convulsive bassline. To focus on whether it lives up to the hype is to miss what Cavalcade shows us: a freakish, feverish parade of our inconceivable world and all its extremities, half-measures be damned.
• This article was amended on 28 May 2021 to correct a misspelling of the album title in the headline. It is Cavalcade, not Calvacade.