Micachu & The Shapes – ‘Good Sad Happy Bad’

Pop inventor Mica Levi's return is as eclectic as it is eccentric

Mica Levi often seems like a mad scientist: an oddball who’s happiest tinkering away in her lab and making strange noises with her even stranger machines, using household props like vacuum cleaners and bizarre homemade instruments with her band The Shapes. In 2013, she unveiled her weirdest creation yet. Her BAFTA-nominated, European Film Award-winning score for Jonathan Glazer’s acclaimed film Under The Skin, a creepy sci-fi horror flick starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress, turned her into a rising star in the high-brow realm of orchestral composition. How can even the most bonkers of inventors top that?

But Levi, it turns out, didn’t devise a highfalutin plot for a follow-up. She didn’t actually plot anything at all: instead, Shapes drummer Marc Pell secretly recorded a mammoth jam session with Levi and bandmate Raisa Khan, which the three of them then fleshed out into an album. It’s soon clear, too, that recording ‘Good Sad Happy Bad’ on the hoof was the only way to follow Levi’s adventures in film. Like the Shapes’ 2009 debut ‘Jewellery’ and 2012 follow-up ‘Never’, it sounds wonderfully scruffy and scuffed, as if it’s all been haphazardly patched together with gaffer tape. It’s as eclectic as it is eccentric. The wheezy, tail-chasing stomp of ‘Relaxing’ comes on like a lost Fall recording corrupted by computer glitches. ‘Sea Air’ is built on murky synths and the hiccups of ghostly gremlins in the machine. Electronic noises ping around like pinballs on ‘Sad’, while the chug of ‘Thinking It’ soundtracks a jogger’s get-fit monologue.

Beneath those perverted pop bounces, though, are some sadder, softer moments, and a reminder that Levi doesn’t just need discordant noise to twist your insides. “You are closer to me than my t-shirt” she gasps on ‘Hazes’, high on lust, but on the baleful bleeps of ‘Oh Baby’ she’s been undone by a devious partner who tries to win their bust-ups by punching below the belt. “You want bare knuckles but a clean fight” she sighs, and even it’s as stunning as it is simple – further proof that Micachu And The Shapes’ don’t need a fancy blueprint to bring something special to life.