Almost 12 months on from their initial swell of interest, Black Midi aren’t getting any less obtuse. Buoyed by a hype- and hyperbole-heavy following (guilty as charged), the London four-piece have largely achieved the seemingly impossible, remaining an underground concern for a full year, in the face of the internet’s incessant desire to unmask anyone and everyone.
Largely, they’ve avoided breaking cover. Their sole single to date, the Dan Carey-produced ‘bmbmbm’, is still only available on Soundcloud and rare-as-golddust vinyl, the latter of which now fetches hundreds of pounds on eBay. Even their live shows – for a long while their calling card – have become confusing affairs, the band’s desire to shirk convention and expectation taking over.
A debut headline show ‘proper’ (whatever that means outside of industry boardrooms) was a truly baffling affair, the band coming on-stage a mash-up of The Prodigy and Limp Bizkit, after a half-hour long drone note. It was chaotic – even, whisper it, calamitous, with bassist Cameron Picton’s amplifier quite literally catching fire mid-set. Rumour has it they did it all deliberately to fuck with the countless big-wig record label bods at the back of the room.
Now, they’re back, with news of a signing to indie über-label Rough Trade, and new single ‘Speedway’. And things aren’t any clearer.
Clocking in a pop-friendly three-and-a-half minutes, that’s where ‘Speedway”s easily digestible traits end. A jazzy, noodling number, it finds scratched guitars and dissonant electronics curdling together, atop drummer Morgan Simpson’s tight-as-a-nut stick-work.
Picton, meanwhile, mutters of “dog shit park” and new cities, half-nonsensically gabbing away as things threaten to veer into full on doom, the instrumental backing getting evermore threatening, before pulling away at the last second.
Backed by three remixes that couldn’t be more sonically disparate if they were the whole of Spotify whacked on shuffle, available only on 12″ vinyl at their shows (no streaming services here, I’m afraid) and accompanied by a found-footage compilation edited together by Picton himself, it’s evidence that – label backing or otherwise – Black Midi have little interest in polishing up their less-palatable sides. For that reason, they remain one of the country’s most beguiling prospects.