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by black midi

Released May 28, 2021 via Rough Trade Records

Reviewed June 7, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
John L (69%), Slow (60%), Ascending Forth (58%)

Schlagenheim was arguably the best album of 2019, so there was a ton of anticipation going into this for me. black midi’s sophomore album is a more calculated, expansive, and dramatic vision of the sound they laid forth on their debut; instead of being outright in-your-face the entire time, Cavalcade instead focuses on creating sweeping compositions that create new avenues for the band to be explore, while also allowing them to continue to be the brightest batch of musicians around. Besides the opener, the rest of the album is an avant-garde take on progressive rock, calling on influences from Discipline-era King Crimson and Henry Cow to create mind bending tracks that morph constantly and show off the dynamics of the band. The amazing angular guitars, gripping bass, and insane drumming are all still here, but they’re presented in a more sophisticated manner, seemingly channeling a cinematic influence. Most tracks seem to have an act-based structure where the longer songs take time to build up to fantastic climaxes of noise. Despite the somewhat disappointing lack of overt intensity, the complex nature of Cavalcade shows a new side to a band and creates a whole new range of possibilities. The track “Diamond Stuff” is forgettable compared to everything else but even then, its finishing moments are fantastic. black midi has proven that they’re here to stay with a true force of a project in Cavalcade. – Jared (9.5/10)

Cavalcade, black midi's sophomore album, builds upon what their debut did in laying out a foundation for their vision to flow free of constraints. The cover art does a fitting job in visualizing what the sound would look like on an optical level. Peculiar witticisms and jarring twists and turns—nothing short of hectic—pave the way for an experience unlike any other. An upping in technicality of an already technical approach occurs on Cavalcade, pushing indescribable feats of musicality to their absolute limits. The band's restless necessity for change and progress in traversing their chaotic soundscapes results in a rapacious output; however, moments of rest are offered in “Marlene Dietrich” and “Diamond Stuff.” Cavalcade is an enthralling piece from one of the most captivating acts of the contemporary scene, with prodigious levels of talent on display. It is life-affirming to see a group of young individuals pushing beyond the beyond. – Peter (9/10)

Rounding out the 2021 post-math-rock-revival trilogy, following Black Country, New Road’s For the first time and Squid’s Bright Green Field, black midi take an interesting new direction that posits a potential transition into somewhere new, rather than building on what was established on their debut, Schlagenheim (2019). Similarly obtuse yet sticky riffs (“Slow,” “Dethroned”) and grating, gruff half-spoken vocals (“John L,” “Hogwash and Balderdash”) reside here, but now they’re partnered with a greater array of other timbres and in-depth songwriting, whether that be lyrical balladry or instrumental harmony. Harmony is a weird way to put it considering its patchwork cacophonies, best represented by opener “John L,” but black midi make it work. The lead guitars writhe primitively against scratchy, rumbling bass, accented with initially simple drum-play that complicates as the track goes on. Shrill strings, dissonant marbled keys, and whiplash-inducing sudden stops diversify the environment and propel its already thrilling pace further. Cavalcade is structured really well, too, with portions of ‘Slow’ and “Diamond Stuff” giving the listener breathing space between its thick, sonic cascades, and “Ascending Forth” providing the best album climax of the year so far. I wouldn’t strictly say they’ve moved forward, rather, black midi have just changed direction on the same axis, and that’s okay. Really okay. – Cam (9/10)

​​Jared: 9.5/10 | Cam: 9/10 | Peter: 9/10

Dominick: 8.6/10 | Alan: 8.4/10 | DeVán: 7.5/10


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