There isn’t a more gorgeously unsettling score this year than Mica Levi’s hair-raising soundtrack to Jonathan Glazer’s 2014 film, Under The Skin. Based on the Michel Faber novel of the same name, the film follows an alien in the guise of Scarlett Johansson — a cipher and seductive predator who travels Scotland enticing men into a darkened building-turned-inky black void.
It’s a perplexing and meditative film about feeling, well, alien within your own body — enhanced and punctuated by Levi’s creepily atonal strings, and quavering electronic flourishes that flitter around the speakers.
Best known for her work under the moniker of her band, Micachu and the Shapes, Levi has always had a fascination with jagged and discordant music. With her previous two Micachu records — 2009’s Jewellery and 2012’s Never — Levi crafted dense everything-and-the-kitchen-sink songs built around slack-stringed guitars, clangorous percussion and serrated beats, and Levi’s vaguely androgynous voices.
But Levi is also a classically trained musician: she started writing music at age 4, studied composition and violin at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and wrote a piece for the London Philharmonic in 2008. Now in her mid-20s and living in Camden, England, Levi recently won Best Composer for her Under The Skin score at the 2014 European Film Awards, and tied with Johnny Greenwood (for Inherent Vice) for Best Music/Score at the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards.
And while Under The Skin‘s strangely skewed score recalls avant-garde composers Krzysztof Penderecki and Gyorgi Lygeti — heard frequently in Stanley Kubrick’s films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining — Levi’s startling, yet tender music is all her own, perfectly match to the otherworldly images on the screen.