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Mica Levi - Ruff Dog Music Album Reviews

Mica Levi - Ruff Dog Music Album Reviews
Producer and film composer Mica Levi’s solo debut operates in two modes: blown-out grunge and soporific dream pop, married by a thick layer of fuzz.

Mica Levi’s shuddering film scores leave no room for imperfection. The shrieking strings of the war thriller Monos breathe hesitantly, any silence a highly intentional harbinger of doom; the solemn soundtrack of the Jackie Kennedy biopic Jackie undulates with a steady rhythm, matching the slight, deliberate movements of its grieving subject. Even the calculated, self-contained shifts of Levi’s musical calling card—a slanted, sliding glissando—signal the interventions of a composer.
But as a producer, they’ve built entire rhythms on the subtle jostles of human fallibility, crafting beats that bounce with drunken bravado. The overdriven, sludged-out pop of their band Good Sad Happy Bad (fka Micachu and the Shapes) takes electroclash intensity to its logical conclusion, leaving singer Raisa Khan’s vocals barely distinguishable from dense layers of guitar. When pressed to describe their core genre for a U.S. artist’s visa, they chose “loud and noisy.” After a lifetime of classical music training and over a decade in the music industry, Levi codifies that descriptor on their debut solo record, Ruff Dog.

For those primarily familiar with Levi’s soundtracks and distinctive, dub-heavy club mixes, Ruff Dog might seem like a lark: The album opens with a canine howl before launching into an onslaught of distortion, unbridled even for a producer with a penchant for going into the red. Ruff Dog pushes their musical tendencies to the limit, at times threatening to render chord shifts and secondary melodies completely illegible. Though Levi often reaches for thin, tinny percussion, the dry snaps of “Flower Bed”—one of the only songs to feature noticeable drums—are gratingly brittle. Rhythms, as much as they exist, are overridden at will by Levi’s voice, a gravely and pinched tenor that sounds like a post-hangover cigarette personified. On “Hi Gene,” they repeat the song’s titular phrase—perhaps a cheeky gesture at how downright dirty the album sounds—as if singing in their sleep, meeting the beat only by happenstance.

At its brightest moments, Ruff Dog recalls the blurred bliss of Micachu and the Shapes, a skilled mockery of pop song structure that becomes catchy, even inspired, once you bite through the grit and grime. The album generally operates in two modes: blown-out grunge and soporific dream pop, married by a thick layer of fuzz (one might think an engineering wiz like Levi would bristle at the term “lo-fi,” but there it is, tagged on the album’s Bandcamp page). The core riff in “Pain” channels the pummeling drive of early X; the descending guitar scales of “One Tear” play out like Doolittle on morphine, Levi’s voice rising to a swooning, romantic climax, even though the lyrics are indecipherable.

On an album that more often bristles than bends, the softer elements stand up strongest: a verbosely titled track, inspired by a dream about Jimi Hendrix, opens with breezy, echoing guitar, a welcome moment of tranquility that recalls the solipsistic strangeness of early Deerhunter. “Ride Till We Die” conjures the easy plod of one of Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Western scores. “Right by your side, ride till we die,” Levi sings with just a hint of irony; their voice flattens in the lower registers, but perfect pitch is hardly the point. Ruff Dog sketches out the barest ideas of puppy love and adolescent angst; its mileage depends on how many blanks you care to fill with your own musical contexts.

As often as it suggests something bigger, Ruff Dog remains stubbornly modest. Its sound reflects what the press materials describe: a six-hour studio goof-around, well deserved by a producer who’s won awards for their meticulous work for the screen. But, particularly paired with mixing from the masterful Marta Salogni, the go-to for note-perfect British pop perfection, it tends to come off as an extended practical joke. When two of the brightest lights in the UK alternative scene collaborate on a record that sounds like it could have been recorded on a cell phone—in fact, is that an errant iPhone timer dinging in the background of “Chains Baggy”?—one wonders just how far the definition of pop music can stretch. But for Levi, capping these could-be brilliant melodies at their barest inklings of potential might be its own form of release.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Mica Levi - Ruff Dog Music Album Reviews Mica Levi - Ruff Dog Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, January 15, 2021 Rating: 5

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