Reviewed by Dominique Leone (Pitchfork)
It's always a joy to find out the music I'm jamming to was reported dead months ago. You know how it goes: you pick up a record, give it a few spins, run out to tell all your friends about it, and BAM! "Dude, wake up, nobody listens to that anymore." Apparently the only crime worse than listening to out-of-date shit is not realizing it's out of date. For non-hipsters, it can be pretty confusing, especially in fields of music (like electronica) that tend to move through "periods" quickly; it's often hard to tell when an artist or genre has truly passed their peak, or is merely the scapegoat for the newest sound, made to appear passé, when in fact they may not have even broken through to many people in the first place.
Needless to say, very little of this has to do with the quality of the actual music-- you've probably been the recipient of more than one misleading recommendation wherein the criteria seemed to be based on little more than the sparkling shine of new product. In IDM, over the past couple of years, some people might argue the opposite is happening: good music is being trampled upon for no better reason than the changing of the seasons. This phenomena is hardly unique to music, or even art, but does make it harder to spread the word about cool tunes.
London's µ-Ziq (Mike Paradinas) has done his share to advance the cause of electronic dance (or otherwise) music since his 1993 debut Tango N' Vectif and astounding follow-up Bluff Limbo, both released on Grant Wilson-Claridge and Richard D. James (aka Aphex Twin)'s Rephlex label. As one of the first of a group of musicians (also including Aphex, Seefeel and later, Squarepusher) incorporating experimental touches into straight-up jungle and techno, Paradinas has never been afraid to step out of the box. He further proved this on 1994's remix project with The Auteurs, wherein his results bore little resemblance to the English indie-poppers' originals. Lunatic Harness (1997) is usually brought up as his best release, and is arguably his first to really nail the synthesis of straight drum n' bass, experimental ambient and a kind of future-pop that relied as much on deft, tricky synth lines as it did samples. Bilious Paths expands on this formula, even if it doesn't drop anything drastically new.
If you're looking for a fresh start on Bilious Paths, by all means skip the first couple of tracks. "Johnny Mastricht" is hyperactive, completely saturated jungle: the template hasn't really changed much in almost a decade, but as µ-Ziq is one of the people who pushed it into more adventurous realms than mere breakbeats, he's entitled to dwell. "Johnny Mastricht" has a lot more going on (check those telephone samples and the myriad of synth lines) than Paradinas' earliest stuff, and if you're just needing a noisy jam fix, it has you covered. "Meinheld" cuts to the chase: imagine drum ‘n bass translated as "drum solo with ornamental coloring." There are some nifty, faux-Apocalypse Now synth textures here, but the real show is clearly the artist's way with a break. He puts on an impressive display, but if you're wanting him to reinvent the wheel, you may want to look elsewhere.
For me, the highlights are the points where Paradinas either steps away from his table of 1000 breaks, or manages to obscure his moves well enough that it's more fun to let it blast than dissect the drum tracks. "Siege of Antioch" begins as a chirpy computer crash, but soon explodes into a cyclical lightning strike synth line, under which his bass drum does considerable damage. Shards of jagged metal bounce from one side of my stereo to the other, and for a moment I'm distracted enough not to notice he's injected a solemn chord cluster in the background. For a time, the song goes by in two keys at once-- disorientating, but of a pretty fascinating position to be caught in the middle. "AEC Merlin" keeps the off-center effect, but this time it's closer to nausea: the BPM is still up there, but µ-Ziq does a nice job of keeping things calm (if queasy) with a masterful, gray-toned synth line-- the kind that Autechre gave up on a few years ago (and BoC took to the bank). It's just able to tie together the otherwise jittery, chaotic beats. Of course, he has those covered as well on "Grape Nut Beats, pt. 1", going out to all the epileptics he's loved before.
And yes, there are some downers here (especially the entirely goofy, nerd-hop of "On/Off"); Bilious Paths is probably not a record that's going to hold off a movement against IDM, but it is certainly not without its merits. It's nothing shocking for µ-Ziq fans I guess, and it would be hard to argue he hasn't beefed up his sound over the years. The best parts of the record are as cool as anything else going on in my listening room recently, and in the end, that's probably as good a recommendation as I could give you.
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