Mica Levi & Oliver Coates - Remain Calm

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  • Mica Levi is easily one of the most intriguing artists in the UK currently. Known for the indie band Micachu & The Shapes, her work has cut across scenes, styles and mediums—releases on Demdike Stare's DDS label, collaborations with the likes of Babyfather and Matthew Herbert, remixes for Björk, soundtracks to indie and Hollywood films—but maintains a certain simple charm. It's a real meeting of the minds, then, for her to pair up with cellist, composer and Autechre enthusiast Oliver Coates, with whom she worked on the soundtrack for 2013's Under The Skin. Coates comes from the Royal Academy Of Music and the London Contemporary Orchestra—the latter has worked with Radiohead, Frank Ocean and Actress, among many others—and his work has included music for an installation by the digital artist Lawrence Lek and a pair of solo albums. Given that both artists are composers as well as musicians, you might expect their collaborative album, Remain Calm, to be less sketchy than it is. But an improvisational spirit flourishes here, and many tracks feel exploratory. The juxtaposition of acoustic cello, effects and the digital manipulation of other sounds (field recordings, ghostly synths) makes up the meat of the record. But if production techniques seem foregrounded, the music is really about the consistent mood of stillness and an element of wonder. The beats, when they appear, are like a soothing pulse, as on "Bless Our Toes." Remain Calm is special in that, even in its adventurousness, it has a gentle approachability, a feeling that applies to much of Levi's work. It's experimentalism as invitation rather than rebuke. Yet for all of its thematic cohesiveness, there's a fragmentary nature to the album. Several tracks are much shorter than a minute, and longer tracks, like "I'll Keep Going," are often a loop that's played with, built up and then deconstructed. There are also pieces like "County H," which has a brilliant central melody but tapers off unpolished. "Barok Main," with its sophisticated melody and arrangement of harmonic resonances, is one of the most complete and fulfilling tracks. Even as an experimental playground, Remain Calm is clearly the work of two people with a lot of ideas, versatility and musicianship. This first release hints at what's possible for this dream pairing.
  • Tracklist
      01. Pre-Barok 02. Bless Our Toes 03. Dolphins Climb Onto Shore For The First Time 04. Schoolhouse 05. Dragon In The Mist 06. I'll Keep Going 07. Xhill Stepping 08. Fight In The Men's Toilets 09. Barok Main 10. County H 11. New Wren Kitch 12. Say Goodbye To Everyone 13. Mob Of Waters