Micachu and the Shapes: Bite your lip, get up and Dance.


The Precocious, multi-instrumentality of Micachu and the Shapes is like camping on an English moor full of howling wolves as you dance to a Kraftwerk album with Gavin Friday, Marke E. Smith and Guggi.  You’ll need a tour-guide in for this moor party because it’s a bafflingly intricate, yet uneasy place. Walking at night, you feel your feet sink into the moor, tin pans crash, an acoustic guitar rants and a shock of Roux-like hair bounces in and out of the frame. Just aloft you spy Colin Newman stoking a sonic campfire as he types on his iphone.  The fire crackles repetitively with a  waffle and snap.  You are at a zeitgeist sleepover, a tempiscore melding of sense datum.   Yes, you are overloaded but in a playful dreamlike state, these things are expected!   In fact it feels downright amazing, the music in the background has a restless energy,   a crack, a pop.   Set against a nefarious groan or the heaving low hum of soft machines, this eclectic pop is tamed by a warm and yet  distinctive androgynous voice.    That is the sound of Micachu and the Shapes, and it’s not a dream.  Micachu (Mica Levi) is tangible! and in a club somewhere tonight playing a vacuum cleaner.

Mica sits staccato, with an unexpected and painterly face. Her voice and  demeanor  project an element of confident-uneasiness. a careless androgyne, tall with a complex grin,  she is an ‘artiste de artist,’  one  bringing sounds useful to Dee jays, club-goers and the lucky and hard working denizens of Rough Trade, San Francisco.  So far everyone fron Bjork to Beck are calling her one of their “influences.”  or at at least “the most un-classifiable pop experimental music existing today.”   That’s pretty good when the avant-garde of the uber popular alternative are calling you “one of the lovely bones with which we are collectively building this thing we call popular music”.

Straddling many genres of music at one time, Michachu has got the concept cornered. How does someone play front instruments, sing,  and add the sound of a vacuum cleaner along with pops and clacks purposfully (and perfectly) set in time to a thick bumping background track? In my humble opinion the only contemporary rock band able to cross this boundary and do well with so many genres was  The White Stripes.  Jack White did whatever he wanted, and Meg was the co-ideator / conspirator in those avant experiments that turned into great songs.   The only constant was his voice as the music always surprised, swelled and dipped as he wailed and groaned in new and different ways.   Experimental, though, it was not.    It was exploratory. In Micachu and the Shapes’  type of ‘experimental’,   there’s  an element of  “I don’t care, I do what I want, what feels right at the time, and by the way… to hell with this ‘image thing”.   It seems  Levi and company do not ascribe to any specific assemblage of their art, it simply is… “what it is.”

Micachu and The Shapes’ songs arent’ about punching other girls in bars, thanks Lilly, we’ve had enough of that.  It was fun in the begining, but now we have to see other people.   The female role in new music must get some plaster and lathe ready and quick, because Micachu just ripped that house a hole in the wall.

As Micachu swoons into a neutral plastic bounce, “Golden Phone,”  seems to reference her ‘style,’ that is, if she could be categorized…

How could they even care it’s a nonsense sound
This sound is everywhere but it can’t be found
Find Nancy fool around and the noise went white
It built the warmth back and there was light

Crimes everywhere yeah, but I don’t want that
Love’s all around yeah, but I don’t want that
Gold in my hair yeah, but I don’t want that
Bring me that nonsense sound and I’ll be back

Well, crushed up bit of stuff, can you pull their ear?
Their legs are far too stiff and they can’t get near
I’ll make this call back to you in a year
Mongrels, this nonsense sound won’t disappear

The song ‘Lips’ explores grime and punk crossover sounds.  Not unlike the likes of early Gang of Four, or Wire, Mica and the Shapes sharp and staccato dithering make you wanna get up and dance.

Die, die, die, your lips  a big lie

You lie all the time, but you still get by.

You bite your tongue but you don’t comply

Dry your tears away with your tie

You drive that truck but you’re still let by

Drop, drop, drop, your lips a big lie

In ‘Sweetheart’ and ‘Eat your Teeth’ Mica samples and manipulates every squeal and stray breath.  She and The Shapes, processes them into pop staccato explosions.  In contrast,  ‘Golden Phone’ is a dirty punk song, breathless and beguiling.

This is the Golden phone, can you ring me back?

Ten mongrels home alone bring the panic back

Sound traveled in the air then they blew it back

The took out all the noise and it all went black

How could they even care it’s a nonsense sound

This sound is everywhere but it can’t be found

Find Nancy fool around and the noise went white

It built the warmth back and there was light

‘Worst Bastard’ is pure punk brilliance; whilst “Vultures” may have the same basic background as Glen Branca’s, “The Ascension” Lesson No. 1″  I could be wrong though.  Branca’s wall of sound is exactly  the intricacy Micachu uses in their swirling and full soundscapes, and especially on this song.   The new Shapes’ album “Jewellery” is on track for album British Album of the year and I’m not surprised.  It may have to fight with La Roux’s signature album “La Roux” but they really are different territory.

In “Curly teeth”, Micachu uses a squeaky sound as a background layer and a dissonence that actually works under her defined and short shap vocals. “Curly teeth” does not dissapoint in fact as with other Shapes’ songs, it surprises once again.

I stumbled upon Micachu and the Shapes about 3 months ago via my favorite performance artiste chanteuse Bjork, and in my humble opinion, this unclassfiable band headed up by Mica Levi  is  channeling the best of electronica, rough wire, punk, avant-garde, pop, and dance. This stateside inhabitant will be sure to see them when they turn up at any venue within 40 miles of me.  Even if you just go to see someone use a vacuum cleaner onstage, don’t miss them when they come to town.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s