Second album in five months from Brighton’s burgeon lo-fi guru
Last year Brighton’s Max Levy AKA King of Cats released Working Out. While the recordings were rough around the edges and the vocals, at times were slightly undecipherable, in its twenty nine minutes it reimagined what a lo-fi album should be. At times it was thought provoking and humorous but with a level of pathos that stuck in your throat. After a mere five months, Levy and co are back again with new album Microwave Oven.
The first thing that hits you about Microwave Oven his how concise everything is. In the past Levy might have taken his time getting the songs going. Now, almost as soon as they start, you know what they’re about. Opening track The Idea of It is a prime example of this new found song-writing. It jumps straight into the first verse. No introductions, no subtle build up. BAM! First verse and we’re off. It’s this kind of song writing that comes with experience and confidence in your abilities. Guilty is possibly one of the most fully formed and immediate tracks on the album. The strings sound like they’ve being played with a credit card than a plectrum. It’s these ad-hoc touches that really make the album great.
Cover My Ears sounds like a distorted game of Pong while Levy and co. sing and shout over the top of it. Is the title and music Levy’s comment of contemporary electronic music, or does the title, music and lyrics all play into some joke that only he knows the punchline of? Ultimately it doesn’t really matter as the song brilliant. Fake Accent is an example of that Levy does best. Rhythmic strumming set behind shrill, screechy vocals. It’s what I imagine Daniel Johnston would sound like, if he was on holiday in Greece. The star of the show is Incorrect. It’s a fuzzed out off-kilter jangling melodic beast with pop pumping through its veins. Very much like Levy himself as he explained recently “I have always liked the idea of making pop music without the means or components or talents to make anything ‘regular’.” Microwave Oven is anything but regular!
The tracks have a scratchy demo feel about them, but on the other hand they sound polished and complete. When Levy was recently asked about the make of Microwave Oven he replied “It sounds like an attempt at something I am unable to achieve, which is what I want.” This pretty much sums it up. The songs were recorded live in producer Jonathan Coddington’s front room. The album sounds very organic and natural because of it, and it’s a refreshing change from usual produced-to-an-inch-of-its-life sounding music that fills the majority of releases schedules each week. Instead of just guitar and vocals, Levy and co incorporated keyboard, drum machine and a bouzouki, along with guitar. This level of experimentation shows, especially on Naked Fucking Bodies Flying High with its Eastern sounding rhythms. Rumour has it that no computers were harmed in the making of this album and everything was played as you hear it and live. There is fragility to the songs and, as a listener; there is a slightly voyeuristic pleasure to them. You are experiencing something that possibly you shouldn’t, but it’s too interesting to do the right thing and turn away. Like when you hear an argument outside your open window, but you can’t close it as the people will know you’ve heard everything.
Microwave Oven isn’t just a step forward artistically; it’s a step forward sonically. Due to the recording process it’s probably as close as we’re going to get, to the inner workings of Levy’s mind. Once you crack the albums code its a fun twenty-two minutes, through an off-kilter psyche, that is watching a microwave, waiting for his food to ping.