The challenge: With the pandemic removing any chance of playing live for a while, Black Midi decided to use the state of the world as a reason to explore an even more expansive sound than their previous recordings. The result, Cavalcade (out May, 28 2021), is an incredible controlled cacophony of instruments (check out the lead single, John L, here) with mind bending artwork to match. I had worked with the band extensively throughout the campaign for their first album, Schlagenheim (designing and building various iterations of their site, being part of the team that organised their pop up show on Canal Street, introducing them to Anthrox studio, who still produce publicity images for them), and we were looking for ways to progress that work to meet the artistic vision of the new record. Cavalcade was to be announced on March 23rd and the band wanted to tip off fans early that something was in the works.
The concept: The band have a very loyal fan base, primarily found across Discord, Reddit and Instagram, who are used to and very engaged with trying to decipher the band’s playful, and often obfuscating, way of communicating. We wanted to tip them off that something was about to happen and give them just enough clues to feel like they were getting close to a solution, without actually giving much away. Talking to the band, we noted that there was so much happening in the artwork that you could see multiple sections of it and still never get a sense of the whole thing. Expanding on that idea, I cut the front cover into 100 pieces and devised a set of randomised page layouts that would place a handful of these pieces in their correct position relative to the artwork but without the context of the rest of the image. If one of these sections is clicked on, it would expand and throw the other pieces off their grid places, further confusing the user. We wanted to add an audio element to the page. I initially built a simple but confusing sequencer, where you could turn instruments on and off but you had to hunt for the links to do so. The band liked it but felt that it gave away too much of the song. Instead, they gave me around 50 specially created sound clips, some were taken straight from the album, some were manipulated, some were all new. I scattered them around the randomised layouts as triggers on the grid. The result is very confusing and very fun, you can see it here.
Fan Reaction: The band alerted fans to the page via an instagram post on March 16th, it quickly spread to Discord and Reddit and a stream of theories and confusion followed. We kept up the fun by adding more sounds, image sections and layouts leading up to announcement day.