Album Review: Cavalcade by black midi

black midi is an experimental rock band based out of London. They took on great success with their debut project, Schlagenheim, which charted on several European charts and the United States indie chart. While their name is black midi, it doesn’t really have to do with the actual genre, which is just a lot of MIDI files layered on top of each other. The group finally drops their sophomore record titled Cavalcade.

The first track from the album is John L. This was actually my introduction to black midi as this was one of their top tracks on Spotify. I decided to check them out before this album was released. It’s exactly what got me hooked to them. The track opens up with some fast paced guitars and bass, then you have some horn instruments come in to give it more of a jazz aesthetic. We also get the interesting English accent from Geordie’s vocals. By the end of the track, it just builds up with all of the instrumentation used and there’s a sense of chaos.

The next track, Marlene Dietrich took me by surprise since it’s such a short track for them and it’s much quieter than the previous track. The vocals almost remind me of the vocals off of The Antlers album, Hospice when it first opens up. As for the instrumentation, we get an easy-going listening experience with the main focus on the orchestral strings, followed by some other strings and drum parts. After doing some digging, Marlene Dietrich is a German-American actress and singer so I’m assuming this track is just paying homage to her career.

Chondromalacia Patella brings us back to something similar to what we heard on the first track. We get an interesting guitar strumming pattern, then the drums come in, and then we get some wailing on some brass instruments. After that build up, it does quiet down a bit into a more jazz-inspired sound with the quiet guitar, string bass, drums, piano, and some hints of brass instruments. Ofcourse we can’t forget what we heard earlier as it’s just all brought into one space at the blink of an eye. By the end of the track, the last half of a minute sounds like some sort of metal and jazz fusion.

Slow is reminiscent of some of the other tracks on this project since they just open up with a bang, then they retreat a bit to a more quiet place. This was also another track I had checked out when seeing what black midi was all about since it was a promotional single for the project. Other than that, I’m really enjoying the quieter parts, especially with the saxophone solos towards the middle of the track to give it some more flavor. After digging through the lyrics and music video, it seems like the track is about a person just waiting for life to end. However, he talks about how it’s taking a long time, instead of just ending all at once.

Diamond Stuff is another track that opens up lightly and there’s a sense of eerieness. You just have a guitar strumming a single string with a few light piano notes added here and there. This goes on for a good two minutes, with nothing that much added in between. We have a few more subtle instruments added and vocals after this, but it’s still pretty minimal at this point forward. Around the three minute mark is where there’s some sort of formula and melody added to the track. The guitar starts to form something a little more regular and we have some brass instruments playing every so quietly. It’s still a bit underwhelming, probably with how unstructured the first half of the track was. We waited nearly three minutes for this and there’s nothing that significant brought out of it.

The last track seamlessly moves into Dethroned, with just a saxophone to open up the track. After the solo is over, we finally get a drumbeat going with some vocals. We don’t really get anything too exciting until after the first time the vocals come out and we get some quick and rough guitar strumming going on, which eventually makes some appearances later on in the track. While the first half of the track is a bit stale, I’m glad to say it gets more interesting later on, especially with the guitar work on this one.

I’m surprised to see a short, two and a half minute track on this album, Hogwash and Balderdash. It opens up with some weird bell like ringing, then an interesting piano part. It eventually cuts out for a quick second for a darker setting of guitars and bass. Of course it revisits us later on as a backing harmony for the track. It just sounds like there’s a lot of chaos going on with the nonsensical notes presented on here. However, when we look at the story, it’s about two people who either escaped from jail or prison, so I guess it makes sense that it’s just chaotic in general.

We come to the last track of the album, which is also ten minutes long, Ascending Forth. When looking at the length of this track, I know it could go two ways: it could be a great sending off point for the album, or it could be a total flop. I’m glad it’s not a complete flop. While track starts out with just a range of guitar notes being played over and over, there are some decent and exciting parts of the track. Also, even though the track is titled Ascending Forth, it more so has to do with ascending fourths, which is a musical interval for all of you music theory people.

Overall Rating: 8/10

Favorite Tracks: John L, Chondromalacia Patella, Dethroned

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