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Micachu & the Shapes - Jewellery

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Artist: Micachu & the Shapes

Album: Jewellery

Label: Rough Trade

Review date: Apr. 14, 2009

The 21-year-old Micachu, née Mica Levi, is not the typical 21st century scavenger. She’s not one to cop beats or flaunt cratedigger cred. No, when she plucks the proverbial spleen, it’s to bring her own ideas to life (Example A: this vacuum). It’s no surprise then that Matthew Herbert, the man who turned bodily functions into a critically acclaimed record, first shone the spotlight on Levi almost two years ago.

Levi’s sound has matured quite a bit since her initial mixtapes (but that shouldn’t stop anyone from checking out the big brains on "Filthy Friends, Vol I"). Jewellery, her debut album with music-school cohorts the Shapes, shows no lack of ambition. She uses grooves, beats, bleeps and clicks in a similar way to how a classical composer might use tympani or staccato violin, and puts them where they belong as opposed to lazily looping parts for the duration of a track. She has plenty to say, but doesn’t need a six-minute club mix to say it.

Levi’s highly economical, kitchen sink approach comes to fruition on “Floor,” one of the album’s more melodic and less murky tracks, Levi sings of an ex-lover while staring at a floor of objects she purchased in vain to replace him. The chorus, a massive swinging jumble of words reminiscent of Billy Holiday, displays at once her keen sense of melody and rhythm, all in 83 seconds.

Just as Micachu’s compositional skills demonstrate an ability to suck all manner of sounds into a virtual ticker-tape parade, her Shapes can be surprisingly cohesive. As they shift gears from post-apocalyptic bunker unit to balls-out rock on "Calculator," Levy sings in post-modernist double entendre ("Grab your calculator, you’ll be needing that sooner or later / Cuz I don’t think I can work this one out / Yes I think I’m going to sit this one out"). The guitar and drums (not to mention train whistles, arpeggiating synths and bells) pound out a storm that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Breeders record.

Discussion of technology and the apocalypse feels absolutely appropriate when discussing Levi’s music; her compositional skill and innate sense of melody evolved from equal parts campfire and hard disk. Despite the up-tempo spunkiness of half the album’s songs, the prevailing tone seems to be that of a musical android – equal portions ukulele and digital distortion. When the world finally goes to pot and resources become so precious that guitars and drums aren’t easy to come by, the world will treasure people like Micachu who can make music with whatever’s left. No harm in getting a head start.

By Andy Freivogel

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