Black Midi


Fads come and fads go. It’s what keeps the system churning over. Our fair city has dozens of venues that need filling every night, whilst carefully curated publications like this one rely on fresh artists to emerge at a constant, consistent rate. We crave the new. And yes, at times the hype can carry a whiff of suspicion to it. Everyone’s heard it all before, the superlatives have been exhausted, the world is weary.

As Black Midi roll into town on this wintry Saturday night, they are the official Best New Band du jour. Their debut single ‘bmbmbm’ became the talk of the hipster tastebuds last summer and there became a race to uncover the mystery that shrouded the anonymous band members. Yes, they’re one of THOSE new bands. Like Burial, WU LYF, Jungle and so many others before them, they are using their anonymity to build a reputation. We still don’t know much – they came through the Brit School, there are four of them…and that’s about it.

However, we can forgive them that particular cliché, reader, because in this instance the hype stands up to further scrutiny. Tonight’s show is the rare example of a hot new band playing before a sellout crowd and nobody is waiting for the hit. Black Midi are impervious to hits. Their music is free and improvisational, a carefully constructed cacophony of noise. They layer guitar noise and feedback with the same craft that Brian Wilson layers melody.

Having recently seen them slay at Eurosonic Festival in the Netherlands, tonight’s show does not see them at their most raucous or eardrum-piercing. This is not because of any technical failure or absence of effort or commitment, but because for Black Midi, each show is unique. There is no attention to formula or convention. There are stretches of their performance tonight, for example, that see them exploring gentle tones and the spaces in between for far longer than you would expect even from an experienced band. It lasts as long as it takes and not one second more. They appear to be driven by a sense of experimentation that is entirely unforced – far from coming across as posers, they get off on pushing the boundaries, reinforced by the knowledge that their musical acumen will see them through.

Melodies are hard to come by, and as such Black Midi will always remain a niche concern. Noddable rhythms do emerge fairly regularly though, and in amongst the jazz signatures and formlessness, one can just about envisage what their eventual debut album will sound like. Caterwauling towers of guitar noise are their default, a modern day reinvention of the No Wave bands of the early 80s New York, with a splattering of the prog-punk of This Heat. When the frontman starts reading out the day’s football results, we’re so deep into their strange world that it barely even seems strange.

At this stage, Black Midi represent the definition of untapped potential. They are only just starting and they already have proven how much they can stand out. Just think what they could be capable of once they start getting good.

Black Midi: Facebook 

Max Pilley

I'm a refugee in Manchester, having successfully escaped Birmingham in 2007. I'm a soon-to-be journalism student, used to edit the music section of the Manchester Uni paper, and have done a little radio production to boot. I've been adding bits and pieces to Silent Radio since 2012, mostly gig reviews, but a few albums too. Also hoping now to get involved with the brilliant radio show. When doing none of that, you can usually find me at some gig venue somewhere around town.