Having released the excellent ‘Sink to the Level’ in August, Midlight return with their second single ‘Pandemonium’ recorded at their studio in Brixton, which they have been building over the last year. Right from the first moments of the song, you sense the importance of rhythm in the arrangement as the focal point is an insistent repeating drum pattern, with a softly sung lead vocal and gentle guitar played over it. It is a straight forward 4/4 time signature, but the rhythms are complex and hypnotising, with extensive use of off beat syncopation with only the downbeat of the first note played by all instruments. The drums have a one bar repeat whereas the bass and acoustic and electric guitars have two bar repeating patterns. These multi-rhythms really bring out the groove in the song’s simple samba inspired drum pattern.
Interestingly the song steers dramatically away from a standard pop structure, employing no chorus but a repeating verse followed by a huge drop in dynamics for a middle eight, with it then crescendoing into the final section. The musical hooks are in the guitar and bass lines, and of course that infectious groove. The vocal line may not encourage an audience to singalong, but it carries the overall melancholy mood and features stunning harmony backing vocals. The outro is a maelstrom of jagged feedback soaked guitars and loud distorting drums, leaving the vocals for dust. It is a major contrast to the opening finger picked guitars and tastefully played samba rhythms of the song intro, clearly showing their intention to start calmly and end in pandemonium.
The irony is of course that musically here there is no pandemonium at all – despite the myriad of multi-rhythms bouncing along, everything is exactly in its place. And that may sound a little like a reference to Radiohead, but like everything the band produces, it is done purposely because without question, there are hints of late period Radiohead in this arrangement.
This is quite a diversion from the original demo version I heard earlier this year. And as with all developments of a song’s arrangement, some changes improve it and there are other things you miss. Personally I prefer the lower key ending with the lone bass, but I can see why they went for a big finish this time on the official release.
Part of me does wonder what kind of audience Midlight are trying to attract, as their first two singles seem to appeal more to those of us who will be listening attentively to the layers of well-crafted melody lines, not waiting for the drop and for when the bass kicks back in on a chorus… which clearly never happens. Their desire to take this much more dangerous path is what attracts me to their music, but I can see that it may also lose them more listeners than it gains. The music business has changed over the last few decades and there is little support for anyone who choses not to follow the path most trodden.
Will they set the world ablaze? Well that is for you, the reader, to decide. I think the imagination, originality and invention in the work of Midlight is worth your support and deserves to reach a much wider audience. Success however, is not guaranteed by making great music, and Midlight do make fascinating and incredibly listenable music.
‘Pandemonium’ will be released today on all digital platforms, alongside a limited edition run of 7” vinyl single records featuring the band’s first two singles as A and B side – ‘Pandemonium’ on one side and ‘Sink to the Level’ on the other. Visit: https://midlight.bandcamp.com/ for more information.