If the phrase “avant-pop” wasn’t already claimed, it would need to be created to describe Micachu and the Shapes. On their 2009 debut, and thus far only studio full length, Mica Levi and her bandmates Marc Pell and Raisa Khan (who both joined Levi in the middle of recording Jewellery, hence the crediting of only some tracks to Micachu and the Shapes) create a sound that can only be described as a cacophony of sounds and genres. The noise made by the band can be harsh and dissonant, but somehow the songs still manage to have pop hooks and to be quite catchy.
Levi is trained in classical composition, but was inspired in her teens by 2-step, 4×4, and grime, (Levi was nicknamed Micachu by London grime artist Baker Trouble). It is through these disparate influences that Levi is able to create her layered compositions while maintaining a danceable beat. When asked to explain how the songs on Jewellery are able to work as pop, Levi responds:
Because it’s such a mish-mash of styles in a way, but for me a lot of pop records are. If we’re looking at poppy pop stuff like Katy Perry or Britney Spears, when they put out a record there’ll be a track on there that’s like a hip hop track and there’ll be one that’s like a country track and there’ll be one that’s a salsa track, you know what I mean, it has a variety of styles.
Clearly, though, Micachu and the Shapes are pushing the boundaries of pop, and a lot of that is based on the band’s desire for different sounds. The band uses anything and everything to make the sound they want. Sometimes this requires building their own instruments, others, like on “Turn Me Well”, it is simply the extensive use of a vacuum cleaner. Whatever the case, this is a band that needs to be heard, and not just once. I dare anyone to listen to Jewellery four or five times and not find themselves singing “grab your calculator/you’ll be needing that sooner or later.”
An author and editor at MiG, Craig lives in Minnesota with his wife and son and is an attorney in his real life. Once upon a time Craig played the trumpet and spent four years in the Hawkeye Marching Band and pep band. These days Craig finds himself most often listening to experimental rock, hip hop, and post punk, but you can see everything he's listening to at: www.last.fm/user/cafreema Craig is not ashamed to admit the first concert he ever attended was New Kids on the Block.
All posts by Craig McManus | Subscribe to Entries (RSS)