Review : Micachu & The Shapes - Never
ConsequenceofsoundMica Levi exploded onto the scene with her band Micachu & the Shapes’ wonderfully inventive, twitchy 2009 debut, Jewellery, which made punk indie pop played on toy guitars and vacuums seem like an obvious choice. The British weirdo-pop wunderkind quickly transitioned to recording live with the London Sinfonietta Orchestra (2011′s Chopped & Screwed) and becoming the youngest individual musician to become an artist in residence with the Southbank Centre. Now, Levi is finally getting around to The Shapes’ second album, Never, which matures while retaining that rambunctious inventiveness.
Those worried that Levi’s time around the philharmonic would take away the rough edges need look no further than album opener “Easy”, where woodsy guitars stumble around, followed by what sounds like a silverware drawer being dumped onto the ground and a vacuum losing power. The sub-two-minute track works like a woozy punk jam, simple chords and repetitive lyrics charging the album. Similarly, the wafting counterpoint vocals and rapid percussion of tracks like “Waste” more than remind why the band’s lone recent North American tour date was opening for tUnE-yArDs.
While the opening tracks pop in and out with familiar bursts of cute oddity, later tracks stretch out, letting their strangeness get comfortable. “Low Dogg” wrangles its thrumming and popping electronics into a semblance of a hip-hop beat, Levi’s talk-singing suddenly recalling Mike Skinner. The violent lyrics (“Even when I turn my back / You twist my neck until I snap”) darken the already crunchy percussion and anxious energy....full text
GuardianWe've been here before, right down to the vacuum cleaner that briefly sucks up all the sound in the opening track, Easy. The hyperactive, argumentative twang and clatter and throb and scratch of detuned guitars and video-game synths and makeshift drums and hammering footsteps and broken glass and metal buttons that rattle around the inside of a washing machine: all of it is familiar from Micachu and the Shapes' debut album, Jewellery. But it's a mark of how far ahead of the genre-splicing, pop-distorting game Mica Levi was in 2009, that no matter how much this follow-up apparently repeats previous ideas, it still sounds vital and fresh. What it adds is a bit more polish, production-wise: sounds bounce boldly across and against each other, so they seem to move at cross-purposes, yet with coherent urgency. But the album's impulse is always impish, its playfulness beaming out from the We Will Rock You stomp of Low Dogg and the scuffed, surf-pop harmonies of Holiday....full text
PopmattersTime hasn’t mellowed out or settled down Mica Levi, the mischievous experimentalist behind Micachu and the Shapes. Like the engaging, out-of-left-field debut Jewellery, Micachu’s latest, Never, channels Levi’s restless creative impulses, as it bursts at the seams with snippet-length songs that are overstuffed with off-the-wall hooks and oddball arrangements. If anything, the three-plus years between Jewellery and Never may have just revved up Levi’s overactive imagination; in the interim, the classically trained avant-pop prodigy has been collaborating with a wide range of cutting-edge artists on diverse projects, from a live recording with the chamber orchestra London Sinfonietta to making mixtapes with DJ/producer-type Kwes. Indeed, the new tricks she’s picked up seem to have only amped up her ADD-addled aesthetic, exemplified by the self-made instruments Levi’s invented to bring to life her demented, Frankenstein-like pop vision.
Certainly, Never doesn’t give any indication that Levi’s reckless eclecticism and incessant tinkering are going to slow down any time soon, though that comes as more of a mixed blessing this time around. While you could grade the precocious Jewellery on a curve for its audacity and ingenuity, Never isn’t as much of a revelation, since Levi still seems to be in that stage where she’s brimming over with good ideas and promising leads, but not yet at that point where she can fully develop them into complete, fleshed-out compositions on a consistent enough basis. Recalling Jewellery’s short-attention-span ditties, the opener “Easy” sets the tone for most of what follows on Never, as it gives you a little of everything you’d expect from Micachu without completely satisfying you, either. Sure, “Easy” offers up some catchy lines to chew on, and its head-bobbing clatter of ramshackle percussion, jacked-up synths, and what’s apparently the vroom of a vacuum cleaner can be thrilling. But it just feels like there’s too much nervous energy and wasted calories on “Easy”, as it spins into entropy rather than stretching itself out and turning into something more substantial. That’s also the impression you get from the next couple of tracks after “Easy”—the skronky, off-kilter title track and the jittery “Waste”—as they skitter by before you get a chance to absorb the neat bits of distorted guitar and found-sound rhythms on them....full text
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