Album Reviews

Micachu – Jewellery

(Rough Trade) UK release date: 9 March 2009

Micachu - Jewellery Micachu is one of those intriguing artists who can be approached from a number of directions. To discover which ones, all you need to do is cast an eye over her resumé. Known to her teachers as Mica Levi, she’s been studying composition at the Guildhall School, where she has already been commissioned by Mark Anthony Turnage to write a piece for the London Philharmonic Orchestra for performance in April.

To balance this she has considerable experience as an MC, and having written experimental pop with the genius-chameleon Matthew Herbert, is ready to unleash her debut album on the unsuspecting world.

It makes quite an impact and sounds unlike anyone we’ve heard before. Backed by her band The Shapes, she makes music of extraordinary diversity and power, though finds time for asides of surprising grace and poise. As a first time listener, you never know quite what is coming next, or how she is going to deliver it.

It’s half sung, half spoken, but isn’t comparable to other artists going for that approach. She spurns the poetic asides of Mike Skinner, tends to avoid the wide eyed couplets of Lily Allen and definitely doesn’t want to talk about everyday things like Kate Nash.

Instead, for Mica Levi expression comes through an extraordinary voice that’s almost polysexual. With a thick tone, she could almost be a young boy singing falsetto in the giddy yodeling of Sweetheart.

It comes with a riotous, devil-may-care approach. Lips tells how “I can’t pay the bills, I ate the food and swallowed the pills” before the distorted guitars crash in and she proclaims, “I love the sound of bass and fear, I wanna live for 20 years”.

Golden Phone is pure brilliance, the toy shop beats aligning for once as she offers her more soulful side, while Calculator implausibly starts off with a smattering of a Jackie Wilson intro before some jagged vocals do battle with more distortion.

In truth Herbert’s production stamp is all over this record, with its occasional nods towards the sound of his own big band. But he’s careful not to swamp his protege, giving her just the barest hint of a strummed guitar as an intro for Worst Bastard, which is the first track on the album to find a weird kind of emptiness.

Elsewhere Micachu’s mood is far more upbeat, sometimes spilling over into the street as she gets carried away. It’s a joyful sound when she cuts loose, and wedded to an attitude you wouldn’t mess with, works a treat.

Micachu is, on this evidence, definitely one to keep an eye out for. Live she really should be something to savour, with a style that evades categorisation but which will surely win her many friends.

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More on Micachu & The Shapes
Micachu & The Shapes – Good Sad Happy Bad
Micachu & The Shapes @ XOYO, London
Micachu & The Shapes – Never
Micachu & The Shapes and London Sinfonietta @ Purcell Room, London
Micachu & The Shapes – Chopped & Screwed