Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Micachu and the Shapes @ The Arcola Tent, London 24/07/12

Micachu and the Shapes create songs that test the parameters of pop music. And if that sounds a little pretentious, it's important to acknowledge how much fun it is listening to the three-piece while they're doing it.
Led by the precocious talents of 25-year old Mica Levi, they've had a reputation as the edgy oddballs of UK indie for the past four years, during which time their uncompromising brand of DIY deviant-pop has built them a loyal following, not least in East London.
Many of these folk have congregated tonight underneath the big top of the Arcola Tent in Dalston, to see the London band perform tracks from their second studio album, ‘Never’, released earlier in the week.
The quirky venue breathes creativity as much as its lack of ventilation causes those inside it to sweat profusely. And the perspiration increases the more and more crackpot the exploits of the support acts get.
These include a go-go dancer smearing herself in chocolate spread (at least we hope it was chocolate spread) to the sounds of 'Don't Cha' by The Pussycat Dolls, and a female rapper called MC Gaff E shouting "lizard tits" for a while.
But, as UK border staff have been at pains to point out recently, good things come to those who wait. Appropriately, Micachu and the Shapes walk on dressed in shirts the patterns on which they seem to have painted themselves. Mica Levi, small in stature but big in charisma, immediately thanks the audience for being there, before picking up a guitar and nodding at her two bandmates to begin.
By being smarter than the average indie band, the three musicians are able to deconstruct and experiment with traditional song structures, creating sounds that are both abrasive and satisfyingly direct. Live, there's a curious appeal to seeing classically trained musicians (all three met whilst studying at Guildhall) producing such disjointed sounds.
Within the confines of a drum kit, keyboard and guitar, tracks such as 'Slick', 'Never' and 'Low Dogg', constantly shapeshift to marry industrial hip-hop beats, out-of tune guitar and skittering, pinpoint drums. Levi's voice is the unifying feature amongst all the madness, her not-fussed, cool cockney drawl contrasting with the instability of the instrumentals.
Avant-garde ballad 'Nowhere', a beautiful song that's been turned inside out to reveal bloody guts, is harsh and melodic, unnerving and uplifting, all at the same time.
Often experimental pop is something that exists to be admired rather than loved. But Micachu and the Shapes' music seems genuinely unburdened by any overbearing sense of seriousness that could come from being tagged as 'experimental'.
The pace at which the band plays their short, buzzy tracks suggests a flashback to punk. But it's Micachu and the Shapes' enthusiasm for pillaging from a smorgasbord of different sounds that sees them looking dead straight into the future.

Written for Clash