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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

Micachu & the Shapes - "Lips" (Jewellery)

The 21-year-old Micachu, nťe Mica Levi, is not the typical 21st century scavenger. Sheís not one to cop beats or flaunt cratedigger cred. No, when she plucks the proverbial spleen, itís to bring her own ideas to life (Example A: this vacuum). Itís 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.

Leviís sound has matured quite a bit since her initial mixtapes (but that shouldnít 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 doesnít need a six-minute club mix to say it.

Leviís highly economical, kitchen sink approach comes to fruition on ďFloor,Ē one of the albumís 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 Micachuís 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, youíll be needing that sooner or later / Cuz I donít think I can work this one out / Yes I think Iím going to sit this one out"). The guitar and drums (not to mention train whistles, arpeggiating synths and bells) pound out a storm that wouldnít seem out of place on a Breeders record.

Discussion of technology and the apocalypse feels absolutely appropriate when discussing Leviís 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 albumís songs, the prevailing tone seems to be that of a musical android Ė equal portions ukulele and digital distortion. When the world finally goes to pot and resources become so precious that guitars and drums arenít easy to come by, the world will treasure people like Micachu who can make music with whateverís left. No harm in getting a head start.

By Andy Freivogel

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