Deep into Micachu and the Shapes' set at (Le) Poisson Rouge last night, Mica Levi gave a little, between-songs riff, sounding a little sad about the just-cancelled Animal Collective show. Her endearingly weird London band were set to open for AnCo in front of a Williamsburg Park crowd, either at, very near to, or slightly over capacity. They were honored to tag along, and sad to have missed the chance. Not that the crowd there would have been as zoned in to Micachu as the crowd surrounding the circled LPR stage.
"We're here for you!" someone yelled.
"We're here for you", Levi's gracious reply.
Never, the band's second record following the acclaimed 2009 debut Jewellry, has gotten less attention in comparison. It's noiser, less cuddly than Jewellry's whimsical clatter-pop was. The record's built on thick but corroded grooves in repetition. It's only occasionally lightened by the appearance of surprising, sideways Beatles-in-India tunes, sung in Levi's gravelly rasp. The record is a grower though, more melodic than you think it is on first listen, less grinding than it may initially seem.
In concert the songs found their rhythms fast, dug in, pounded them flat. At their best, like as the encore choice "Low Dogg", they manage to lift up and float out from the grimy, broken instrumental loops that sound way bigger (if not necessarily way brighter) live. Gone was the modified ukulele-ish instrument Levi used to play (the "chu" to her "Mica"). She beats up an already beaten up electric guitar into submission now. But for as heavy and sometimes abrasive as the songs can be (and even the rare Jewellry in the set song was notably heavy), there's a sense of play in the band's sound that remains surprisingly intact. Even as they bordered on industrial drone, there was a danceable bouyancy that sent the crowd into full body waves, face-wide smiles, brief bouts of ridiculous looking shit-losing.
It's challenging pop music that maybe even asks a little too much of its listener at this point, but given Levi's precocious talent (she had a piece performed by the London Philharmonic at age 20, ferfuckssake) it's hard to imagine her future as anything but a pop music lifer, churning out albums with varying immediacy for a dedicated cult ready to follow her instincts. The band may have missed out on the opportunity to swell their ranks last weekend, but for the folks who got it, they were there. And kind of totally great.