'Blue Alibi'– Mica Levi [ALBUM REVIEW]
Big-budget movie composer finally debuts her lo-fi experimental punk album
RELEASE DATE: 27 January 2021
GENRE: HYPNAGOGIC POP / SLACKER ROCK / EXPERIMENTAL / AMBIENT
If you’ve heard of Mica Levi (also known by her superhero name Micachu), it’s likely because you saw that film with the naked Scarlett Johansson cyborg drowning unsuspecting Scottish men in a metaphorical black swimming pool. That plotline alone should hint at the kind of projects Levi involves herself with.
But of course, Levi also has been celebrated for her more conventional repertoire like the sombre Jackie soundtrack (2016) or the organic sci-fi textures of Monos (2019). But Blue Alibi is a step in a newer, weirder direction marrying her atonal Schoenberg tendencies with ideas she’s picked up from her other more poppier rockier side hustles.
First off, skip the opening track. Whack will just chase away listeners who haven’t had their Trout Mask Replica (1969) cherry popped. As for the rest of the album, you can tell most of the composition comes from the same headspace as Ruff Dog (2020), which Levi released only months before. But Blue Alibi is a lot more stripped-down – minimalist even, drawing an aura reminiscent of Laurie Anderson’s Big Science (1982).
Imagine having to remix your friend’s Despacito covers without the music. That’s how little raw material Levi is working with going into this project. Shouldn’t be surprising then that tracks like Between and Out of Memory Interlude treats the human voice like a drumkit - getting chopped up and looped to form some simulacrum of rhythm.
"I’m not even going to pretend this album is something you should play at a party"
Even songs with musical bits get this same treatment. Like in Monk where samples of woodwind and whistling are leapfrogging over each other. In the best cases, the music will accompany the vocals as expected. But there are moments where the backing track seems almost like an intrusion, like a bad karaoke session. Such is the case with Sticks & Stones where the guitar and vocals come together like skin and sandpaper.
But if you managed to tolerate (or even enjoy) the more experimental parts, you will be rewarded with a fresh approach to rock music. Rose is essentially what King Krule would play if he went out busking. Om Om Om Om features MC Brother May rapping slowly over what sounds like the Twin Peaks theme song; and the final track, aptly named Outro, layers some very shoegazy guitars under a coating of bongos – a combination I’m surprised nobody has tried.
I’m not even going to pretend this album is something you should play at a party (not that you should be having parties during a lockdown). But the appeal of Levi’s latest effort is its strange mix of sounds so familiar and yet so disconnected. Words are not meant to be heard, and rhythms that do appear are starved of a consistent tempo. It’s almost as if this album is the musical equivalent of something spat out by Artbreeder. So if you’re one of the weirdos who has had Radiohead’s Pulk/Pull on repeat an unhealthy number of times, Blue Alibi will scratch an itch you never knew you had.
Om Om Om Om, Monk, Outro
Whack, Sticks & Stone