Imagine a really disgusting and immoral scientific experiment in which the members of Weather Report, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson and Wire were somehow fused together into a giant caterpillar or something. This album is the kind of racket the forlorn creature might make. It sits in that usually arid zone where prog meets jazz fusion, with frequent bursts of staccato slash-and-burn brass and more ludicrous time signatures than you could shake a stick at. Or imagine Captain Beefheart speeded up, given a little focus and stripped of even the vaguest semblance of a sense of humour. That’s Black Midi.
It works, even if singer Geordie Greep’s croon begins to grate even more than the shrieking mayhem behind him. This is their second album (the Mercury-nominated first was even more ‘challenging’) and it is at its best on the slower, more cunningly melodious songs. The gentle jazz of ‘Marlene Dietrich’ and the pretty, hypnotic and minimalist ‘Diamond Stuff’, which brings to mind Carl Orff. But there is fun to be had, too, in the manic and yet disciplined scrawking of ‘John L’ and ‘Hogwash and Balderdash’. They are very good musicians and are anxious that you should be aware of this fact.
The lyrics? Try this: ‘Paintings of orthodox monks on the wall/ Impotent Mark puts his pen to forehead/ Waiting for proof of his unquestioned gift’. Right-ho. That’s from ‘Ascending Forth’ which begins with the words ‘everybody loves ascending fourths’ over what aren’t a series of ascending fourths. I suppose that’s their idea of a joke. Bet they’re a huge laugh on a night out. Good album, though.