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.

“Lift” a film by Marc Issacs.


LIFT is a quietly fascinating meditation on the mundanities of London life. Installing himself inside the lift of a high-rise block of council flats, Isaacs and his camera patiently observe the residents as they go about their daily business. As each of his subjects enters the lift, it’s interesting to note their reactions to him being there; some are suspicious, others curious, and then there are those who seem more comfortable in his presence. Lift is a revealing and truly original perspective on modern British life.
***
Marc Isaacs worked as an assistant to acclaimed filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski, who encouraged Isaacs to make his own film. The result was Lift, and from that debut onwards Isaacs has revealed a great capacity to empathise with the protagonists of his films. Never judging by appearances, Isaacs’ skill at getting to know the characters becomes part of the narrative of the film, and their (and our) prejudices and preconceptions are challenged by the reality he finds.   Strong human characters are at the heart of all of Isaacs’ films and “he has quietly built a body of work that puts him amongst the most empathetic documentary observers we have of lives often overlooked” In his films Isaacs creates a succession of deeply moving portraits, piecing together a unique vision of modern Britain.

La ROUX!! Listen up statesiders… change is in the hair.


Elly Jackson of La Roux

Don’t call her “Techno Lady Gaga”  or  “young  Annie Lennox” unless you would like a sneer and a few explatives, but Elly Jackson feels the critics encircling…literally chanting… with ever increasing volume:  “Elly Jackson is The new face of Electronic Music!”   Go see her  in the clubs before Madonna, Jay-Z or some such music mogul accosts her and makes her choose whether or not to sell her soul to the devil.    Jackson, along with bandmate and co-writer, co-producer Ben Langmaid,  meld together wild pulses,  fluttery beats and popping thick synth drums.   Capturing sound like  bolts of sassy lightening stuffed into a tesla coil, Elly croons …’We can fight our desires
Ohhhh but when we start making fires… We get ever so hot… Ohhhhh whether we like it or not….
They say we can love who we trust… Ohhhh but what is love without lust?

The red-haired one”

In late 1995, Happening upon a baby naming book, Elly figured “La Roux” was as good a name as any as it fit the shocking scarlet hue of her hair.  Consequently  the masculine form of “Roux” was prescient as she realized “Rousee” could’ve been seen as conversationally opposite of her persona as it did not fit her obvious androgyny.  Later hybridizing her amazing coiffe  into a Bowie-esque/ Mike Score do, La Roux / Elly Jackson the stage persona was born.     Beginning her musical journey on seventies Nick Drake and Carole King amongst other gritty songsters, early in life Elly developed the  love of a well crafted song.

A shock of Stardust colored hair, on-stage intensity, and andro-lustful poses to match,  Jackson  conjures  the soulful thick electronic sound of Depeche Mode, The poppy playfulness of Yazoo, and the stylistic croon of Allison Moyet.    La Roux has managed a completely new sound from the ashes of the best in eighties electronica.  Ahem….’New Wave’ as some of us remember.

“Quicksand”

With their Freshman effort  released by Parisian label Kitsuné, in 2008, La Roux later tapped  producer “Lifelike” for the remix of  “In For The Kill !” which  debuted at number 11 in the UK Singles Chart.  Finally signed to Polydor Records, La Roux released their debut album, uncerimoniously called “La Roux.”


The same effort yielded “Buletproof” which was released as a single in June of ’09.  It debuted at # 1 in the UK Singles Chart.. In the U.S. it topped the Dance/Club Play chart the week of September 17. I’m Not Your Toy was released to the baded breath of house / techno devotees on September 29th of this year.

Joining Lily Allen’s UK tour in March of ‘o9, La Roux began a long touring commitment that included the NME Radar Tour, The Glastonbury, Oxegen, Reading and Leeds outings.  Finally placating almost rabid dance fans in the U.S., La Roux toured North America in July and August of 2009.   Canadian venues were supported as was The Jimmy Kimmel show in addition to the historic Troubadour in Hollywood / West L.A. Lucky San Franciscans attended “Popscene”  (The Club NME series),  and enjoyed an amazing show even if a playful yet  snarky Jackson taunted “Which one of you is gonna have this up on YouTube tomorrow?

Planning to pen their sophmore effort sometime after  their very busy tour is done, but with no specific date in mind, La Roux isn’t gonna push.  You can’t rush art.  Their  beats are born of collaboration,  they aren’t aimless, or repetitive,  and are not without rhyme or reason.  They’ve got originality, substance and direction.  That’s what makes them so palatable to a very musically-hungry-stateside-beast.

We’re still digesting La Roux, discovering it’s nuances, and incredibly buoyant at this very British “discovery”. In closing, whatever is rolled up into the collective conscience of La Roux does not really matter, for quite simplistically, all any music lover needs to know is that  La Roux bounces like the devil and how lucky we are to be in the room.

We can fight our desires
Ouuhh but when we start making fires
We get ever so hot
Ouuhh whether we like it or not.
They say we can love who we trust
Ouuhh but what is love without lust?
Two hearts with accurate devotions
Ouuhh and what are feelings without emotions?

~Chrissylong