Mica Levi, the 26-year-old leader of Micachu and the Shapes, is the unassuming figure creating tunes that somehow perfectly define these sometimes scary, often overwhelming, but always exciting times. It’s no surprise that director Jonathan Glazer enlisted the classically trained Levi to provide the score to his upcoming film, Under the Skin. Starring Scarlett Johansson as a sinister figure preying upon hitch-hikers in Scotland, the score itself is the perfect canvas for Glazer’s ominous cinematic brushstrokes. The score is a stunning compliment to the film while the moving images similarly allow for the ebb and flow of the score to be recognised.
Glazer’s film features only a handful of dialogue and the score is pretty central and stylistically sounds like a cross between Bernard Hermann and John Cage and is impressive even for the classically trained Levi.
Mica Levi’s soundtrack features atmospheric pieces of music that are just perfect for a film soundtrack. They create tension and drama in all the right ways.
Track one Creation has an unnerving start to the song with strange noises that gradually get louder and string instruments that are being played, cracking, distorting and continuous noises in background which sound a little bit like the racket of a busy city. This track creates tension and unsettles your stomach. It does exactly what a film soundtrack should do – it sparks an emotion of some sort in you.
Lipstick To Void has the continuous scratching noise of the strings in the background mixed with the sound of a drum that sounds like slow following footsteps creating a haunting feel. The strings die down a bit about a minute and a half in leaving the ‘footsteps’ as the paramount instrument. There’s this sense of being followed or hunted when you listen to this song. It’s really unnerving and dark.
On the third track Andrew Void the music is almost silent at the start but around a minute in, the strings come in with an incredibly haunting and loud sound. The ‘footsteps’ heard on the previous track return with a slightly faster tempo. There’s a sense of urgency starting to be felt now.
The next track Meat To Maths is completely sporadic and crazy. It sounds like a computer being programmed. The loudness and potency of the instruments gradually increases but drops down again towards the end with the layers of instruments, one at a time, being stripped out. It’s another unsettling number where you’re not quite sure what’s going on but it makes you uncomfortable.
Lonely Void sees the return of the ‘footsteps’ drum beat which seems to be a theme throughout the album that is probably reciprocated by the film. Lonely Void features dark, deep and droning synth noises that accompany the drums alongside those haunting string sounds which start to feel familiar at this point.
Bedroom has a rather surprising sad tone to it; it’s a tone that implies (as well as the name perhaps) that a relationship is involved. This song’s tone hints towards the loss of a loved one, a feeling of letting someone go. The strings increase in volume towards the end of the notes implying a sense of happiness among the sadness.
Love has the same tone as Bedroom and it sort of feels like a continuation or expansion of the previous track. There are more strings and more sad yet uplifting tones. It’s an emotional track that hints towards a realisation of some sort.
Some of the second half of the soundtrack appears to be more uplifting than the first half and the tracks towards the end. The first half appears sporadic, untuneful and unsettled whereas the second half sees songs like Bedroom and Love introduce this sense of realisation, of happiness among bad things. The strings all give the impression of something or someone becoming enlightened.
Mica Levi has produced a wonderful emotional rollercoaster of a soundtrack for Under The Skin. There’s anxiety, fear, tension as well as happiness, contemplation and contentment to be found in this soundtrack. Mica Levi’s Under The Skin soundtrack will be released on April 1 via Milan Records. It’s currently streaming in full on Pitchfork now.