black midi @ Liquid Room, Edinburgh, 17 Feb

black midi's first trip to Edinburgh shows a band constantly on the move, confounding expectations and already looking for the future of their sound

Live Review by Lewis Wade | 20 Feb 2020

Branching out from the acid noise-rock of Bo Ningen, Taigen Kawabe brings his rap alter-ego to open up tonight. Mixing emo, bass-heavy beats and the cross-cultural musings of a much more intense Triad God, Ill Japonia is a fascinating proposition, perfectly suited to warming up the crowd for a band as stubbornly unclassifiable as black midi.

Like any artist with avant affiliations, black midi seem to revel in disrupting people's ability to dance effectively, or even nod in time, gleely employing abrupt changes and false endings. But this doesn't stop a good chunk of moshing during the more manic moments of Ducter and Western. The best way to enjoy the show is to release any expectations and just let the band's own dream logic buffet you along.

Guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin is absent tonight, the line-up augmented by Kaidi Akinnibi (saxophone) and Seth Evans (keys). The band have barely been off the road in the last 18 months and the change-up keeps things fresh, while the setlist doesn't rely solely on last year's debut LP, Schlagenheim, with new songs like John L, Chondro and Nylon.

The new instruments allow for an extra element of skronk in the controlled-chaos meltdowns that frequently appear, though the songs never tip over into improvisatory self-indulgence. The real secret weapon is Geordie Greep's voice. It's so often wrapped up in the dense arrangements, but when allowed to rise unfettered, it belies a rich grandeur reminscent of Scott Walker, especially on the long, reflective closer Nylon.

It's a remarkably tight set, showing an intense commitment to artistry, every sax blast or drum build skilfully employed in service of the greater whole. But just in case the expected quota of 'weird' wasn't met during the performance, Akinnibi and Greep return to the stage to dance to Fat Sam's Grand Slam (from Bugsy Malone) in lieu of an encore. It's a bizarre addendum to a fairly 'normal' show, but one that's impressive nonetheless.