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Micachu & The Shapes
Good Sad Happy Bad Brian Coney , September 15th, 2015 07:40

Viewed at a certain distance, the cunning avant-pop of London three-piece Micachu & The Shapes could well be misconstrued as an ad hoc quest for hyper-individualism rather than something more considerable. Having well and truly started as they sought to go on, Mica Levi and her band of merry shapes have both ducked and actively bucked trend in favour of giving zero fucks to conventional pleasures, most recently – and solidly – on 2012's uncompromising Never. An extension of that wholesome pursuit and an experiment in the pluckiest sense of the word, Good Sad Happy Bad frames the trio at the hands of their conviction in the power of the ever hallowed "moment".

Owing to the prescience of Micachu drummer Marc Pell secretly recording a particularly fruitful extended jam in an East London studio, Levi and co.'s latest release is very much formed around the notion that magic is often at its most becoming when captured tabula rasa. Unsurprisingly, the final product's thirteen brief tracks are threaded together by an uninhibited, positively playful absentmindedness, with the process – largely untouched after the fact it seems – laid bare and open to scrutiny. Spurting raspy, spontaneous spoken-word tales of everyday ennui and all kinds of abstracted hang-ups and private glories, Levi is as persuasive as ever; even at their most half-baked or throwaway, her lyrics betray an odd, boundlessly casual yet uniquely expressive tone of import.

Despite this, much in the same way that Micachu & The Shapes' sonic ancestors Royal Trux's more free-form efforts invariably entailed, Good Sad Happy Bad only truly rewards the fully conscious and repeated listen. Lapse in attention for more than a couple of tracks here and there's the latent risk of your subconscious folding and dismissing the whole endeavour as a bunch of unexceptional jams that go nowhere. Zone in and heed the shrewd shifts and variations sprinkled throughout the album – from the first giddy pops of Trans Am-esque opener 'Sad' to woozy swansong and highlight 'Suffering' – and the full alchemical majesty of Micachu & The Shapes' craftily chaotic realm of experimental pop blossoms into sharp focus.

Naturally, for a release borne from such open-ended insouciance, a couple of tracks here expectedly meander and wane off with little to no pay-off. Take 'Thinking It', a track that sees keyboardist Raisa Khan recite a knowingly trifling tale on the laws of indecision and mortality, proving not unlike the Monochrome Set's masterful spoken-word lampoons of its ilk. With the sheer organic improvisation of the record as a whole all but redefining "off-the-cuff" as a byword for orchestration, this brief recited monologue – inoffensive as it is – feels a tad misplaced, divvying the flow and proving more irksome than perhaps intended. For the very most part, however, the sublime impulse that permeates Good Sad Happy Sad reigns supreme.

Especially with the more conventionally assembled Never in mind, rather than offering up an album brimming with standalone, mind-expanding tracks that leap out, recognisable from the off, Micachu & The Shapes have actually gone one better in yielding to their collective gut instinct and opting to release what is essentially a studio jam that produced the goods. With their uncanny knack of still sounding like very few other bands before or since their early stirrings, faith in letting the "moment" loose has once more revealed Levi, Pell and Khan to be a strange and sorcerous triptych unto themselves.