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Micachu & the Shapes/London Sinfonietta: Chopped & Screwed

Album Notes

Though Chopped & Screwed is Micachu & the Shapes' second album, it's hard to call it a true follow-up to Jewellery's brilliant avant pop. This collaboration with the London Sinfonietta brings the group's experimental undercurrent -- as well as other aspects of Mica Levi's musical background -- to the fore, taking these compositions in very different directions than their debut. Levi studied violin and viola and wrote an orchestral piece for the London Philharmonic Orchestra, but also has a keen interest in grime and hip-hop, and all of these elements are on display in Chopped & Screwed. Even the album's title reflects Levi's roots in these styles; while these pieces aren't chopped and screwed in the typical sense of the term, they are much slower and trippier than the Shapes' previous work. "Everything"'s strong melodic and rhythmic thrust makes it a kissing cousin to Jewellery, but for every moment like that on Chopped & Screwed, there are two more like "Fall," a woozy, theatrical piece built on sawing strings. The album is also remarkably dark, even on the relatively catchy "Low Dogg," which pairs a lunging string arrangement with lyrics like "twist my neck `til I snap." Throughout, Chopped & Screwed makes the most of the Sinfonietta's involvement, whether it's the frenetic pizzicato on "State of New York," the hushed woodwinds on "Medicine Drank," or the way the strings mesh with the percussive elements of the Shapes' handmade instruments on "Freaks." While it's a far cry from Micachu's other work, her adventurous fans -- and fans of adventurous music in general -- will find Chopped & Screwed intriguing at the very least. ~ Heather Phares



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