Mica Levi is the twenty-one year old embodiment of what the quirkiest alleys of independent music has sounded like in the last twenty years or so. “DIY” is scribbled with large capital letters across the red brick walls, the lazy house cat Lucy is gazing in the shadows from the corner of the hot street and somewhere in the background it sounds as if a band is sound checking. It could also be the noise of Mrs. Dillingham doing her springtime cleaning of the house. There is also the possibility that what we’re hearing is Mr. Barclay being bashed at by Mrs. Barclay in an argument for the umpteenth time after last night’s alcoholic adventures. But no, you are actually hearing none of this. It’s that peculiar Levi girl being up to musical mischief with those McShape boys again.
Mica Levi calls herself Micachu (obviously it brings the Pokémon Pikachu to mind), goes bonkers on just about everything she can use for her left-wing recordings and is backed up by the trio of boys called The Shapes. She looks like a leftover punk rocker who reluctantly and half-heartedly had to settle for indie once the 2000s opened up its doors and I’ll be damned if she doesn’t intend to rattle a few cages and mindfuck the system a bit as long as she’s stuck with making music that sounds like a parody on lo-fi indie. Jewellery is her debut and it’s an album that makes absolutely no one any wiser.
Of course, she is a classically trained musician from the beginning and of course she has released a grimy mixtape last year and of course she has teamed up with none other than micro-electronic mastermind Matthew Herbert for the production. It makes absolutely no sense on paper and the mystery of Micachu isn’t getting resolved throughout the fourteen tracks and a little over half of an hour. It just gets thicker, even though the quartet’s experimental jams have been used in the same breath as the word pop. To be honest, if Micachu is pop, then Animal Collective is your ordinary MTV darling band.
Micachu’s experimental installments are at the most embryos of pop, hinting towards some sort of genuine structure and ordinary lyric writing. They are genre-bending, simplistic and surprisingly dodgy or even chaotic. Rarely reaching the three-minute mark, the songs are brimming with loosely gripped ideas which are allowed to float around and come and go as they want. It’s easy and fun to picture Herbert as the focused but stressed manager here, desperately trying to keep Micachu and her friends in check as they go bananas like children in the studio. Herbert’s compositions are most often controlled and deliberately exercised, so other than a lot of seemingly random but accurately positioned electronic noises and heavy use of unconventional instruments in the musique concrÃ¨te style, this doesn’t sound at all like his affair. Jewellery should hence by all means not sound catchy, but it does! Some songs, like the charming gem “Golden Phone” and the remix-potential “Just In Case” even stick to my mind long after I’ve listened to the album. I don’t think we’ll ever know if it was Herbert who tamed the extremely eclectic Micachu or Micachu who set Herbert’s great talents free in a joyous production spree.
It doesn’t matter how much I listen to this controlled chaos. It doesn’t make me any less dazed, confused or amused. Songs pass so quickly I don’t even know exactly what just passed by. Nonetheless do they leave considerable marks and lasting impressions. The most memorable track is “Lips”, with its unforgettable, mega-quirky riff. It’s an outstanding demonstration of how Micachu can churn out fully enjoyable miniature recordings built upon embryos of what could be considered as “real” songs.
In the end, after eventually turning my sanity inside out to find some sort of answer to all my questions regarding Micachu, I think I’ve realized that I’ve accomplished the biggest mistake you can make when listening to Jewellery: overthinking. Micachu, with all her experience and talent, did not make my mistake, but intuitively followed her twisted sense of style and ended up serving us one of the most important debuts this year. It’s been a long time since you could come across an album made out of sheer intuition, and that is why Jewellery can be such a rewarding and genuinely compelling listen — just don’t get too into it.