Micachu & The Shapes with The London Sinfonietta @ King’s Place
Micachu & The Shapes with The London Sinfonietta.
King’s Place. 01may10.
When a piece of work provokes what the cynical might call ‘the law of diminishing returns’, there is a positive spin that can equally be applied, relating to the strength of that initial impact.
For example, in the four times I watched Micachu & The Shapes in 2009, they were never so good as they were the first time around. The only exception to this rule was during the encore to that fourth show when they hooked up with tour-mates The Invisible for a collective cover of Paul McCartney’s very-80’s electro single Temporary Secretary, which was astonishing. Thanks, one assumes, to that element of surprise.
This is perhaps The Shapes’ greatest weapon in much the same way the first Fall album you come across tends to remain your favourite. However, it does put pressure on them to turnover the material, and indeed their style, at a rapid rate. Although, of course, this is no guarantee of artistic success.
Indeed, the non-album material that was aired on those later dates last year hinted at a more dirge-based direction, rather than the scratchy giddiness of great album tracks like Lips and Vulture. If I’m honest it didn’t quite seem to fit.
However, this collaboration with the London Sinfonietta, as part of the latter’s ‘Experiment’ festival, makes sense of it. Mica Levi, Shape-leader, is a classically trained musician and composer and, despite her youth, has already composed for the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
This is her 50 minute score, Chopped & Screwed, essentially a brand new set-list weaved together like the Bayeaux Tapestry; an avant-garde symphony sharing its aesthetic quality in places with both the austere and the more aggressive moments in Scott Walker’s string score for ‘The Drift’.
There are sparse moments which complement the John Cage and Christian Wolff pieces that five of the Sinfonietta had performed in the first half by way of warm-up, whilst other interludes see all the players tapping at their violins, cellos and wind instruments like amphetamine-fed woodpeckers. Reflective vocals and samples weave in and out whilst one passage is reportedly anchored on the speech patterns from slowed-down hip-hop records.
It’s never been in doubt that Mica is brimming with musical ideas, perhaps too many for a common-or-garden band making an assault on the pop charse or even just the indie/alternative consciousness. As such, so you can well see her and the Shapes (whose contribution should not being ignored, drummer Marc Pell doing a fine job of conducting the pace of the Sinfonietta players at various points) ploughing a more ambitious furrow than merely the indie toilet circuit.
Then again, you can imagine that that ambition might not necessarily manifest itself orchestrally, it could equally be a hardcore grime record, an album of ‘English folk music’ to reflect the modern shape of East London, or the pursuit of the perfect avant-pop sound.
Hopefully it won’t be any of those and Micachu & The Shapes will continue to strike out with the shock of the new.