Micachu And The Shapes Play Rickshaw Stop Tonight


Micachu Levi may not be reinventing the wheel with her inviting melange of tweeting synths,  noise shards and bent rhythms. But the adeptness with which she has synthesized 21st century American underground indies as varied as Deerhoof and Dan Deacon, Matt and Kim and High Places, and their avant-hardcore resistance to traditional song structures and hip-hop/electronic music-affiliated affinity for cut-and-paste appropriation, is tough to deny. It would be like dismissing electricity as flash-in-the-pan trendy. Bred on the free jazz, open ears and gateless range of a generation freed from the pop commercial concerns, hers is such a sparkling, fresh voice that it’s easy to listen to the Micachu and the Shapes debut, Jewellery (Rough Trade), and picture the 21-year-old ramping up some new breed of horseless carriage in the near future.

An acolyte of Oakland-born avant-garde pioneer Harry Partch, the classically trained UK native has with one foot in London’s garage and grime scenes and another in contemporary music. From there she mixes in homemade instruments like a xylophone made of light bulbs, a “cloud chamber” consisting of Pyrex dish-ware, a modified hammered guitar and bowed CD rack. The confident compositions and bold textural touches of Jewellery, which was produced by avant-electronic brainiac Matthew Herbert, threw Levi’s almost shy presence at this year’s South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, into relief, as she stood, almost self-effacingly, off to the side on Emo’s outdoor stage.

Still, her talent was undeniable. And there’s nothing gimmicky about Levi’s instrumentation and arrangements -- on such songs as the spare, dubby “Floor” with its darting electronics and the skiffle-scuffed “Just in Case” with its feisty, fuzzy beats. Her clubby origins -- and appreciation for hip-hop’s sample-happy mad geniuses -- are an intrinsic, easy part of her musical language. The DJ within Levi is unafraid to take, for instance, the light-hearted party riff of “Tequila” to rumbling, much darker places on “Calculator.” “Consider this your final kiss because off the list we’ll slip your disc,” she sings wistfully. “Consider this your final diss / Because off the list you are dismissed.”

Calculated? About as crafty as a Carole King-Gerry Goffin girl-group heartbreaker -- with much thought poured into its contrivance. Levi also has a gift for an insinuating melody, one that digs into the subconscious effortlessly. And like any pop prodigy, she already has a grasp on the mechanics of a love song, even as she deconstructs it and sneaks around through the back: “I’m so tired / My muscles ache,” she croons with a world-weariness beyond her years on the infectious, blurting “Wrong.” “And I’m so bored / that my heart can’t break.”  

Micachu and the Shapes play Wednesday, July 22, 8 p.m., at Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. tUnE-yArDs and Tempo No Tempo open. $10. (415) 861-2011. rickshawstop.com

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