Returning experimentalists draw Manchester into a whirlpool of discordant noise
Ever since Micachu & The Shapes’ 2009 debut ‘Jewellery’ tore up pop’s rulebook – and then sampled the vacuum cleaner that hoovered it up – the Surrey trio have explored ever more esoteric terrain. It’s been three years since second album ‘Never’ (during which time Mica Levi earned a Bafta nod for scoring 2013 sci-fi horror Under The Skin) and a sold out Soup Kitchen crowd are eager for new songs.
They get eight of them, and each sounds murky and willfully odd enough to make Australian popeccentric Connan Mockasin look square. ‘Sea Air’ is first, a churning spiral of primal drums, ghostly synth effects and growled vocals that make Mica sound like Courtney Love with a sore head. ‘Relaxing’ feels like a pop song on Temazepam, its melody buried under the rubble of detuned guitar and pitter-patter effects. The dubby ‘Oh Baby’ inspires the first proper boogieing, while ‘Thinking It’ contains a sampled monologue of someone contemplating giving up weed in order to live longer (“only then will I get to enjoy my old age even if it means hating my youth”) over a barrage of noise that sounds like Le Tigre at their most off-kilter.
Upcoming new record ‘Good Sad Happy Bad’ was carved out of off-the-cuff jamming sessions and sometimes its results feel like sketches rather than fully-realised songs (see the skeletal, bleepy ‘Waiting’ and ‘Suffering’), but it’s impossible not to be drawn into the band’s hypnotic whirlpool-world of discordant noise. When they arrive, older tracks slot easily into it. The swathes of fuzz that herald ‘Low Dogg’ – from ‘Never’ – make it sound like a horror remake of a children’s song. “This is our last song, it’s calming and relaxing,” announces Mica, introducing closer ‘Unity’, which comes on like a demented lullaby. When the fans demand an encore, they return with a blistering ‘Lips’. As Marc Pell pounds his drums and Raisa Khan bobs behind her keyboard and laptop like Doctor Who wrestling with his Tardis controls, Mica improvises lyrics about “sitting in a Weatherspoon’s in Leicester watching David Cameron talk about the Singapore economy”. The message is clear: Micachu & The Shapes are back to take their bizarre-pop crown.