The Hellfire Club is a picturesque ruin perched on top of Montpellier Hill in the Dublin mountains. In addition to being a popular spot for hill-walking and magic mushroom picking, it is allegedly haunted by a giant cat and subject of several yarns about the Devil. London band black midi chose John “Spud” Murphy from Lankum to produce their second album in Hellfire Studios, a literal stone’s throw away.
Cavalcade opens with John L, an absurd track with a bonkers video that sonically channels the likes of King Crimson, Battles, Shellac and free jazz, topped off with a peculiar vocal from the wonderfully named Georgie Greep and gloriously surreal lyrics. “In all the world there’s no escape from this infernal din,” Greep sings.
A cavalcade is a formal procession of people. black midi invent their own cast of weird and wonderful characters: a cult leader who has fallen on hard times; an ancient corpse found in a diamond mine; Marlene Dietrich. There is also a track named after Chondromalacia Patella, a condition more commonly known as runner’s knee, and another one called Hogwash and Balderdash.
The soundtrack to all this marvellous madness is a dazzling blend of furious percussion from Morgan Simpson and inventive bass lines by Cameron Picton, who also occasionally contributes vocals. The beauty of Cavalcade is that for all its surreal strangeness, this is a remarkably focused and coherent album. It should hopefully illuminate the gradual dawn of our brave new post-pandemic world.