The gates have become so blurred, in recent years, between independent music and the mainstream, that nobody knows where he lives. Who is in, who is out, who is free, who is pretending? Who is in art, who cannot be? Taylor Swift who gives in the intimate americana with the pallid hipsters of The National? The duo 100 Gecs who transform the most commercial dance pop into assaults with multisaturated senses? R’n’b everywhere, all the time, from cassette labels in the depths of Texas to top sales and upscale art galleries in Scandinavia?
And then, in this permanent mess of which we sensed for a time that he would free the artists but which we know above all that he always ends up favoring the same ones – those who already have everything, the power and the money -, there is to Mica Levi. The Englishwoman, who has been rife for years in rock art (Micachu and The Shapes, Good Sad Happy Bad) but has above all made a name for herself by transfiguring the art of the film soundtrack (Under the Skin, Jackie, Monos), has become like an ideal indicator of audacity and unpredictability of the 2020s, each project of which extends the previous about as much as it disintegrates it. Her self-proclaimed, self-produced first solo album is also as much an opportunity to deceive us about what we thought we knew about her art as about herself – she announced, on the occasion of her surprise release on December 16, that you now had to refer to your person with the non-binary pronoun “they” (“iel”, in French). Of which act.
The object of the new mutation, titled Ruff Dog in reference to the clébard who introduces it, is a wonder of pretense, a false brutal and cavernous rock record whose supra-saturated guitars occupy the smallest square millimeter which is not already colonized by his hoarse voice, itself blurred to the point of imperceptibility, and hide a highly melancholy and avant-garde work, whose astonishing sound design says it all about the innovative load. Of course, there is punk in the record, literally, like in this Pain formidable, filthy squared Crass, or this One Tear which implodes the Pixies until they retain only a cloud of smoke. But above all, we can feel Mica Levi, this extraordinary artist, inhabited by the desire to advance artistically ambitious pop, a category more troubled than ever at the start of the decade, towards other political and aesthetic possibilities. To put it prosaically, this short and rich disc is a furious and overwhelming interjection unexpected at the end of a year of disarray like music has never known, which does us a lot of good.
Mica Levi Ruff Dog (Self-produced).