UK experimental rock band black midi announced their sophomore album Cavalcade, which is set to come out on May 28 via Rough Trade. They also shared the first song off it, “John L,” with a non-album B-side called “Despair.”
“John L” is accompanied by a bizarre music video that was directed and choreographed by Nina McNeely, who is also known for Rihanna’s “Sledgehammer” and Gaspar Noé’s Climax. In it, a large group of dancers in skin-tight brown outfits dance to the gestures of a god-like figure with an Illuminati seeing-eye for a head. The god-figure eventually collapses and a new one takes its place.
The song is a chaotic progressive rock freak-out that builds off a call-and-response guitar riff, screeches of instrumental noise and key banging, complex drums and an abstract dialogue about cult followers overthrowing their leader. It’s an epic, suspenseful track inspired by King Crimson’s Discipline (1981).
Guitarist/vocalist Geordie Greep commented on the recording, “We wanted a natural, open sound combined with fourth wall breaks – for lack of a better expression. Do you know on record when you can hear the tape screeching, the things that make you aware that you’re listening to a recording? [With a lot of records] it feels like either you’re listening to the ECM, high-fidelity, 25 mic amazing sound or you have the lo-fi album full of crazy effects. And I thought, ‘Why not have an album where you combine the two?’ That was one of the main ideas going into it and John [‘Spud’ Murphy] was very keen on that idea.”
Murphy engineered the record along with producer Marta Salogni, initially in London and later at Dublin’s Hellfire Studios. The band’s line-up has changed since their 2019 debut Schlagenheim, since guitarist/vocalist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin opted to take a break to focus on his mental health. Greep, bassist Cameron Picton and drummer Morgan Simpson decided to recruit a couple of new members for the Cavalcade sessions, saxophonist Kaidi Akinnibi and keyboardist Seth Evans.
According to Greep, black midi hoped to reverse the creative process from Schlagenheim by creating the songs around individual ideas rather than the whole group spontaneously coming up with the ideas together. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in the improvisation myth of divine intervention, that if a song doesn’t happen in the room naturally without it being guided by someone specifically, when we’re all just feeling the vibe, then it’s not proper and it’s not pure,” he states. “That’s kind of a dangerous thing because you end up never trying something different, or you just abandon an idea if it doesn’t work at first because you’re always waiting for that thing to arrive perfect.”
1. John L
2. Marlene Dietrich
3. Chondromalacia Patella
5. Diamond Stuff
7. Hogwash and Balderdash
8. Ascending Forth