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Sunday, December 1, 2019

Album / Video Of The Week, Dec. 1

Album of the week: Black midi - Schlagenheim

What with all the talks about diversity, it seems that more popular artists these days emerge from one and one place only - London, England - than back in musty old 1964. These particular guys, who have named themselves after a silly digital gimmick, are occasionally toted as the current saviors of at least math-rock, if not prog-rock as a whole, so I checked the record out with interest. Apparently, they even played live with the legendary Damo Suzuki (of one-time Can fame), and if this isn't an endorsement, I don't know what is.

Approximately one and a half listen to Schlagenheim yields no final verdict, but the interest has largely been satiated. Disassembling the sound leads to the following conclusions - these guys have a really good, all-over-the-place drummer, who is almost singlehandedly responsible for the energy level; a professional, but unremarkable bassist; and two guitar players who seem to have honestly passed their exams in King Crimson-style playing, but are advancing that art about as far as I am advancing the art of writing in the English language (which is to say, backwards rather than forwards). On top of that, they have a very ugly vocalist who would perhaps be suitable for a post-punk band, but not for a math-rock outfit like this. In fact, killing the vocals altogether would have been preferable for this thing.

It's not ALL jagged-edge math-rock, though: the record has plenty of lyrical moments, and the boys' bag of influences clearly covers Yes and Genesis just as naturally as it covers King Crimson, Pere Ubu and Primus. The problem is, if they ARE adding a new twist to all those old-school influences, I cannot even express in words what it is. In terms of virtuosity, they are nothing particularly special (the already forgotten Adebisi Shank were a far tighter and more complex band, and those guys never got their dues - admittedly, Wexford, Ireland is a bit more obscure than London, England). In terms of memorable melodies, well... listen to the opening riff of the opening track on the album and, believe you me, this is as memorable as it ever gets. In terms of it all making sense... well, it doesn't. They're just making lots of organized noise. Also, they stole the bassline of "bmbmbm" from Alan Parsons Project's 'The Raven', so there. And for just about every song on here, I could name half a dozen prog / fusion / math-rock classics that do this shit better.

But if you haven't done your homework on those genres properly, who knows, maybe you'll love this. Plus, they seem to be very young kids, maybe one day they'll figure out their own sense of purpose:

Video of the week: King Crimson - Live In Japan 1984

Naturally, watching and listening to this couldn't save me from associations with the mighty Crims, so why not profit from the moment by drawing attention to this? For all his love for capturing concert performances on tape, Fripp is a known enemy of the camera, and his discomfort seems to extend to professional filming - there are very few official videos of KC concerts out there. Fortunately, at least we have this bunch of footage from a Tokyo concert hall on April 28, 1984 - just three months away from the legendary Absent Lovers performance - and it is a fantastic show, capturing the (arguably) best live version of KC in all its glory. Much of the fascination, like with a great classic Who video, comes from watching the distinctly different musical personalities harmonize with each other - the unmovable Fripp on his stool vs. the madly flapping Adrian Belew, or the oddly insectoid Tony Levin flashing his weird bass instruments vs. the steady man-machine of Bill Bruford. Great setlist, decent (not phenomenal) camera angles, a couple superfluous psychedelic effects here and there, and tons of energy - above everything else, one simply HAS to see actual human beings generating this kind of sound in order to believe it.

Here's 'Frame By Frame' which deserves to be worshipped frame by frame - enjoy it while it lasts, the Frippolice will be there any minute now:


  1. "The problem is, if they ARE adding a new twist to all those old-school influences, I cannot even express in words what it is."

    In other words: Pastiche.
    See also: Porcupine Tree / Steven Wilson

  2. I listened to a couple of minutes of the opening track of Schlagenheim. Mathrock that's as repetitive as AC/DC and Status Quo? Not a good idea.
    To compensate I listened to Tricot's Pool again; it has been a while. The bass player is interesting; the vocal melodies are weird and cool; the drummer beats the shit out of Black midi's counterpart.
    Perhaps Tricot and KC would have been a better combination.

  3. I'm vocalist for black midi. On your review me leave the band now. Drummer will sing he's good

  4. So...are all reviews of 2019 albums going to be negative?

    1. Seriously good question. I ask it myself every morning. We just have to wait and see.

    2. It's a fun series: an unmemorable modern album coupled with a classic performance. I think if you keep it up for too long you'll be accused of trying to make some sort of programmatic statement.

    3. Still, I'd be curious about your thoughts on Lingua Ignota's Caligula if you plan on reviewing it.

  5. After relistening to Frame by Frame, I experienced the sudden urge to relisten to Forty Six and Two by Tool. While I certainly wouldn't go as far as to accuse Tool of ripping off that song, there are some uncanny similarities in the guitar melodies of the verses between those songs.

  6. I listened to the first 11 minutes of Caligula and found it utterly boring. There is no development at all. The several other snippets I heard suggest that it remains the same for the entire hour.

  7. Yeah, George should not listen to Caligula. He would not understand it.