Live Review

Micachu And The Shapes, Littlefield, Brooklyn

Oh, grime. So bad, so good, and so like sex, that much better in person.

Oh, grime. So bad, so good, and so like sex, that much better in person. It’s hard to reconcile the sight and sound of a live Micachu to the easily muted ‘Jewelry’ that has played alongside my cooking these past few nights; the hectic lead up to her performance here at Brooklyn’s Littlefield on a warm and inclement Saturday night. But there she is, short and curly and playing a guitar that looks like it’s in a pretty abusive relationship. A sight to behold.

There is little in the way of the sweaty communion I anticipated from such rompy studio titles as ‘Calculator’ and ‘Lips’, two of the tracks with which Micachu glibly earns her pop label. Indeed there is little of the musical language you might expect from a former DJ and MC. The stuff that Micachu And The Shapes play in person is not dance, inspiring little more in the limbs of their listeners than the ubiquitous hipster shuffle (you know the one; arms slackened or crossed, continually rising and falling in a rhythmic semi-squat). But all the better. 45 minutes with Micachu feels like sitting in on the taping of a B-Side; it’s goofy and out of tune and soon over.

But it’s cheaper just to impair your hearing at home, with a pair of headphones, than to hop on the subway and pay Micachu And The Shapes to do it for you. So why bother? Because they’re probably the only ones who will, is why, and they’ll do it with skill, like a dentist. The Shapes know how to work a sound system, and some of the finest moments in the show are the least distinguishable from one another, bursting into life or dying hastily, noisely, and in crowds. Raisa Khan’s keyboard is especially potent, hurling huge sounds across the room, with what would feel like abandon were she not so faithful to the beat.

The show is a love affair with dissonance and unlikely unions. From rivers of bass to tiny contralto and cow bell, Micachu’s spectacle is powered by a collaborative rhythm, sustained and augmented by one Shape after another. It begins with percussionist Marc Pell, who maintained toward Mica the sort of steady, predatory stare most often reserved for determined cats; keeping watch for those small signals so common to co-workers. It shows. Micachu’s reputation is one earned in the cacophonic crucible of experimentation, and it is that same penchant for innovation that makes her worth visiting in person. But without the steady support of the Shapes, all of Micachu’s pedal pushing and strident wailing might fall on decidedly less tolerant ears.

As it is the Shapes back her up in broad, bassy strokes, filling the air in your lungs with a feeling like warm porridge, or being drunk. It’s here, in their gleeful embrace of percussion and reckless use of Littlefield’s sound system that the Shapes truly solidify. What makes the group worth the trip is not their stage presence - a bit reticent, a bit impatient - it’s the wonderful work that each member of the group does with their instruments, and with eachother.

Micachu And The Shapes offer a glimpse of that rarest of beasts - a garage band in the process of making it. They are talented and rough, overtly experimental yet rooted in a pop as pure as Presley. The world expects great things of Mica Levi, but at 22 she seems to realise that success is filling a room with reverb, and an audience who eats it up. It might hurt, but it’s still damned good for you.

Tags: Micachu, Features

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