A demented but catchy second album
Mica Levi’s 2009 debut ‘Jewellery’ was a gourmet dog’s dinner of pots-and-pans glitch-pop, an utter cacophony of greatness produced by Matthew Herbert. Since then she’s made a couple of mixtapes with Kwes under the obvious but excellent name Kwesachu, and a live album, ‘Chopped & Screwed’, with the London Sinfonietta, featuring a host of homemade instruments. But her return with The Shapes picks up where ‘Jewellery’ left off. This time they’re self-producing, but whether Herbert’s weirdness rubbed off on them or they were simply a natural match in the first place, the effect is just as disorientating.
‘Never’ is a blend of industrial clank and fuzzy loops played in a fog, but for all its wacked-out dementia it’s a perverted sort of pop album too. Levi knows a tune even if she insists on sing-talking along to it from the next room, and hooks – however creepy or off-kilter – embed themselves in every other track. So even as she empties a cutlery drawer onto the railway lines in ‘Easy’, the burning thrash of guitar rolling over and over pulls everything into a groove, and while ‘Low Dogg’ is a hideous atonal nursery rhyme, it’s also damn catchy.
The stakes are boosted further by ‘Holiday’ and its take on Motown, and the belated invention of psychedelic rockabilly on ‘You Know’. Only the 45-second ‘Top Floor’ is respite from all this DIY inspiration, a woodwind-accented sigh of gorgeous Beatles-y whimsy. It’s a lot to take in, sure, but each listen is as fresh as the first, steadily enhancing the bubblegum fun and TOWIE chat of ‘Glamour’ or peeling off the ghostly layers of the bluesy ‘Fall’. Levi might occupy an alternative pop reality, but all the clamour disguises some familiar haunts.