Micachu
Chopped and Screwed


4.5
superb

Review

by David James Young USER (181 Reviews)
June 9th, 2011 | 13 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Mica Levi and co. throw their weirdest and most wonderful shapes yet.

It’s been said that familiarity breeds contempt, and this much is true of London musician Mica Levi, best known for her work under the moniker Micachu. Following the release of her much-acclaimed debut Jewellery in 2009, Levi found herself lapsing into the same set of barre chords while writing on guitar. Never one to shy away from experimentation, Levi and her backing band The Shapes – Raisa Khan and Marc Pell – found themselves creating entirely new instruments to create something in which familiarity simply couldn’t be bred.

This experiment lead to a collaboration with the London Sinfonietta, a chamber orchestra that has worked with everyone from John Cage to Aphex Twin. You could say that doing something out of the ordinary is more or less the Sinfonietta’s natural calling – and that would certainly explain Mica’s desire to peform with them. The result of this collaboration is Chopped and Screwed, a live recording of the two groups performing the compositions in London last year. Interestingly, all applause was asked to be held until the very end of the set, a la any orchestra performance. Needless to say, however, this isn’t your average Beethoven revue.

While this release is not being officially recognised as the follow-up to Jewellery, it is very much a worthy successor to it. This is a bold adventure through music, disregarding limits and conventions and returning to an almost primitive engagement with sounds where something as simple as noise becomes the most exciting aural prospect imaginable. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Chopped and Screwed's soundscapes is taking the formality of something like a string section – typically associated with classical music – and immersing it in something as peculiar as this. Just as this is untested ground for Micachu and the Shapes, so too can we imagine it so for the Sinfonietta – not even Aphex Twin could have gotten quite as abstract as this.

The arrangements are nothing quite like what one would expect from clasically-trained musicians – Mica herself included – but, in a way, that’s exactly what makes it such an enthralling listen. The strings mimic sirens, screech, creak, wail and moan as they blend into scattered beats and the oft-distorted vocals of Levi. Needless to say, it’s all quite adventurous – and a very detailed listen that requires one’s utmost attention. Whereas Jewellery presented a topsy-turvy look at pop music, Chopped and Screwed shifts from most identifiable conventions and instead comes across as very much mood-based music. A sense of distance and paranoia lurks through opener “State of New York,” lucid ambience is at the core of “Medicine Drank” and a bleary-eyed sense of confusion is what defines “Not So Sure.” There is certainly no “Golden Phone” or “Turn Me Well” to be found amongst these songs – not that it’s even a short-term issue when one’s imagination is so caught by these darkly beautiful compositions.

Amongst the nine tracks, it’s “Everything” and “Low Dogg” that present themselves as the record’s highlights. The former is crank-turning baroque pop, revolving around fascinating exercises of polyrhythms where a hyperactive metronome click does little to keep in line a scratchy string section that feels as though it is sporadically jumping between 33 and 45RPM. The latter, interestingly enough, is arguably the most straightforward of the collaborations found on Chopped and Screwed. In a way, this is why it works – not only does it display Levi’s graphic lyricism (“You twist my neck until I snap”) mixed into subtle accessibility, it presents a churning cello and tire-screech violins as viable hooks – instantly recognisable and at an earworm-like level of catchiness. How does it work? Chances are only Mica herself knows.

Chances are you’re not going to hear another album quite like this one in 2011. Just as heads were turned in with Jewellery, Micachu and the Shapes have once again defied expectations by not just pushing the boundaries, but acting as though they don’t exist. If you seek a challenging, exciting listen within modern music, look no further.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
June 9th 2011


6448 Comments


Sounds interesting. Great read btw.

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

Tyrael
June 9th 2011


20879 Comments


Great review as always. Pos.

Digging: Darkspace - Dark Space III I

AtavanHalen
June 9th 2011


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks dudes

taylormemer
June 9th 2011


4917 Comments


Cool

defjaw83
June 9th 2011


1769 Comments


Need to check this out

darnielle
June 9th 2011


221 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

zzzzz

AggravatedYeti
June 9th 2011


7685 Comments


While this release is not being officially recognised as the follow-up to Jewellery, it is very much a worthy successor to it.

this didn't impress me as much as the debut but this review of yours makes me feel as though I sincerely missed something here.

AtavanHalen
June 9th 2011


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

zzzzz


Oi! Pay attention!

conradtao
Emeritus
June 9th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review. This got overlooked by a lot of people.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2011


7289 Comments


Hola Atavan; long time no see. This was nice read - as per usual. Have a sentimental and nostalgic pos
=)

Digging: U2 - Songs of Innocence

AtavanHalen
June 10th 2011


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

aw cool

taylormemer
June 10th 2011


4917 Comments


Next review to bump this into oblivion territory will get a personal destruction from yours truly.

AtavanHalen
June 10th 2011


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

what the actual fuck are you talking about



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