Sunday, May 03, 2009


Micachu & The Shapes.
London Institute of Contemporary Arts. 28apr09.

Precocious, you might call her, judging by her prodigious talent, but there appears to be no hubris with it whatsoever, not if her between song thank-yous are anything to go by, sounding like a shy four year old after being bought a Sherbet Dib-Dab by one of their friend’s nans. As it is she’s 21 but has already DJ and MC’d on the grime scene, been commissioned to compose a piece for the London Philharmonic and wowed the alt/indie scene with her debut LP Jewellery.

Her voice may not be the strongest in terms of projection, but it is beguiling and morphs in keeping with the changing outlook of the music. Within Mica’s vocal chords there is the parson’s daughter singing She Moved Through The Fair a little too loudly out in the porch; a V’s-flicking little rat catcher reading poetry with epiphanic eagerness or a punk dustman with lofty aspirations.

With so much of the itchy-foots about Micachu’s music, you might not think a 3-piece live band could pull it off, but Raisa Khan on electronics and Marc Pell on drums more than meet the challenges of what are often fairly complex arrangements. At times it’s like Jackson Pollock squirting the paint bottles over the canvas with a stuck-out tongue that is both cheeky and indicative of eager concentration.

Through the crash cycles of Wrong, the stumbling coconut shy rhythm of Just In Case and the convulsive Lips, which is given a heavier-weight distortion live, the band provide an intensity and delicateness all at once; sparsity and density in equal measure. In addition, Golden Phone, chirpy at the best of times, gains a bit of a Pearly Queen vibe, all knees up, before playing out as Fantomas avant-metal clank. New one ‘Long Life’ has psychedelia and dada in its flailing, warping sleeves, and free-jazz in the midriff.

As per the album, Ship tonight features a guesting MC Man Like Me [see above], whilst all three Shapes bwatter at snare drums, Mica doing so whilst still playing her self-modified guitar. Tweaking instruments and adding non-instruments (such as a vacuum cleaner) is certainly part of Micachu’s grand vision which encompasses not only the sound, but how it is made. You imagine, somewhere, Scott Walker is looking up from pummelling a pig carcass and offering a wry smile.

To me, more than anything I’ve heard from a new band in some time, Micachu & The Shapes have the awkward spirit and ambition of Beefheart, the ambition of Lick My Decals Off, Baby Beefheart certainly, whilst not coming near the Captain’s actual sound. After all this stuff has nothing of the desert plains about it, this music could only really have come from the clusterfuck streets of east London.

This is not to say that it’s all good good good good good. It’s just four of those, the praise not being without reservation. Once or twice, particularly on those announced as new songs, the material feels a little rushed and unfinished, but in a band brimming with ideas, a little attention deficit is perhaps unsurprising.

Also one wonders if this music, at least Jewellery as an album, could date quite easily and quickly, despite being more of its place than it is of its time. However, Mica seems the type to try and keep ahead of the game and so, I guess, one should worry more about albums future, than albums past. Certainly, you can’t see Mica on any 2009 nostalgia tours, twenty years hence.

Micachu @ MySpace



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