New release: Micachu and the Shapes

Micachu and the Shapes: Jewellery
Rough Trade Records/Accidental records (2009)

Every once in a while an artist comes along and completely changes shit up. Enter Micachu, also known as Mica Levi a 21-year-old English songwriter, MC and micachuDJ. Apparently Micachu made her name as an MC on the London Grime circuit while studying violin, viola and composition. Now, with her band the Shapes, Micachu is taking pop music into strange places.

Using a combination of home made instruments, electronics, drums and even a vacuum cleaner Micachu and the Shapes have pulled together a collection of short, sharp sing-along pop songs that almost defy description. At times they sound like Beck’s lo-fi meanderings circa Mellow Gold, before shifting into playful electronica by the likes of Hot Chip. The whole thing is shrouded in clean, but out of tune guitars that twang like spastic ukuleles.

It’s nowhere near as bad as it sounds, really. In fact it’s painfully catchy and up beat. Micachu’s androgynous voice, thickened by the strongest of accents gives these songs an intriguing personality and level of honesty.

Just in Case traverses moody ambiance, grimey beats, Hawaiian guitars and zippy Casio squeaks while Micachu confesses that she ‘won’t have sex because of STDs’. Eat your Heart is all Hip Hop rhythms and bells until those jangly guitars take the tune into a bizarre folk-rock stomp. Meanwhile Turn me Well is a dirge of vacuum cleaners, PlayStation beats and low-end buzzes.

The entire album is a hotch-potch of left turns, and while the pop element is clear (believe me, it is, listen for yourself!) there are few obvious choruses and hooks. You might be imagining a very lo-fi feel, however the production skills of suave experimentalist Matthew Herbert keep every unique sound shiny and clear. It’s this sheen that stops Jewellery from descending into lo-fi, indie masturbation and introduces the listener to a wonderful sense of adventure. I’ve been listening to this a lot in my car and find myself bopping away with a big dumb grin on my face, imitating Micachu’s accent and laughing as other drivers stare.

For me, pop music of this nature tends to have a certain lifespan. For all Jewellery’s frivolous fun, at times the quirkiness overrides substance. But as a debut album, it’s shitloads of fun and as Micachu matures as an artist (she’s only 21) she will definitely be one to keep an eye on.

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