black MIDI’s “John L” is exhilarating noise-prog chaos

black midi john l essential track

The sonic terrain of black MIDI‘s debut album Schlagenheim twisted through noise rock and post-punk landscapes, but it never strayed too far from prog. It’s that peculiar hybrid that found them frequently drawing comparisons to the likes of This Heat, even though they never really sounded much like them. Rather, black MIDI often felt a bit like King Crimson were they born of late ’70s Manchester and modern technology. I can’t be the only one who’d love to hear what they can do with “21st Century Schizoid Man.”

Their new single “John L” runs a similar musical gauntlet as that track, but where “Schizoid” is defined by soaring vocal yelps and squealing saxophone, “John L” is a dizzying swirl of violin and guitar with Geordie Greep’s ominous and sometimes booming spoken-word delivery (and with a particularly mind-bending video at that). I don’t know if it’s quite right to say that this is black MIDI’s most disorienting track, seeing as how so many of their other songs tend to take you to some weird and unexpected places. But it has an exhilarating feeling that all control is bound to be lost, which might well be the band’s greatest talent—reining in chaos just enough to feel like the chaos might ultimately win, but never quite gets there.

From Cavalcade, out May 28 via Rough Trade.

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