Micachu & The Shapes - Never

Mica Levi is a cultural phenomenon in her own right. Currently the youngest individual musician to be made artist-in-residence at London’s Southbank Centre, Levi is classically trained with a penchant for hip-hop and homemade instruments. With Micachu & The Shapes, she performs boundary breaking experimental pop alongside fellow band members Raisa K and Marc Pell.

Their debut album Jewellery saw a pioneering of DIY pop that questioned preconceptions about the genre, abandoning the over-polished and refined sound of the charts in favour of a patchwork of layered chaos made by hoovers and a range of modified instruments. In 2011, the Shapes joined forces with the London Sinfonietta Orchestra to create a more down-tempo live album that paid homage to hip-hop legend DJ Screw’s cough-syrup and lemonade fuelled ‘chopped and screwed’ style, using their own homemade instruments.

Their 2012 effort Never is self-produced, recorded in Pell’s Stratford studio with mixing duties falling to Dillip Harris and the band themselves. The tracks are still frenzied but there is a sense of smoothing out, a trimming of jagged edges. The vocals are more restrained, moving away from the abrasive spoken word of Jewellery to become more integrated within the fragmented rhythms; ‘OK’ uses a monotonous vocal hook as the structural frame of the song itself, turning it into a warped playground chant. The scratchy messiness of Jewellery is still there: album closer ‘Nowhere’ is a fast-paced cacophony of hedonism, humming and heavy breathing, but the majority of the the album seems to nod more to Levi’s classical background than their debut. ‘Fall’ is delicate, graduating somewhere in the middle to a staccato of sounds played at double speed and easing delicately into silence before a humming of strings plays the track out.

Never, like its predecessors, is a sensory album; silence doesn’t sound quite the same afterwards. Whilst this album is evolutionary in its production, the Shapes have caught themselves in their own quandary of stylistically being unable to reinvent the reinvented. Suddenly, playing a xylophone made from light bulbs doesn’t seem quite so original anymore. It’s still great, but it’s no longer captivating.



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Last updated: 07/08/2018 01:34:18

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