µ-Ziq - Magic Pony Ride Music Album Reviews

µ-Ziq - Magic Pony Ride Music Album Reviews
On his first full solo release on Planet Mu in nine years, veteran IDM producer Mike Paradinas looks to the past, pairing jungle breaks with sugary synths.

Thirty years after the release of Warp’s first Artificial Intelligence compilation, the specter of IDM persists. Though the notion of club music made for home listening might feel pedestrian at a time when chilled-out, focus-oriented electronica fuels the streaming industry, the names of the movement’s originators still hold weight today. Aphex Twin’s insignia appears on the cover art of frenzied digicore singles. Gen Z’s new wave of retrofuturist rave producers cite Venetian Snares and Squarepusher as influences. Save for exceptions like Autechre, most of the folks deserving of a spot on IDM’s Mount Rushmore drop new material in infrequent bursts, often adhering to the glitchy palette of their early work. Like veteran jazz artists or jam bands, they work within their brain-tickling, technically proficient wheelhouse—they still churn out good stuff, but it’s functionally dad rock for lapsed ravers.

That’s quite literally the case for Mike Paradinas: father of two, Planet Mu labelhead, and the mastermind behind pioneering IDM project μ-Ziq. The English producer’s once prolific output has slowed to a drip since the mid aughts, as looking after his family and signees has taken up the majority of his time. The expert knob twiddling of Paradinas’ early career has thus been replaced by nudging the cursor on his laptop, an occasional pastime during rare moments of leisure. Magic Pony Ride, his first full record of solo tracks on Planet Mu since 2013, came together last year after his kids returned to school.

Though his fusion of dense, mechanical rhythm and baroque orchestration is almost always recognizable, μ-Ziq’s albums reveal the essence of the tools that shaped them, like a clay impression. During the peak of Paradinas’ productivity in the mid-’90s, works like Bluff Limbo proudly bore the scars of conflict between his Atari ST and analog tape, gritty breakbeats leaving welts. After a rough decade of transition from hardware to Logic plugins, 2013’s Chewed Corners marked the beginning of a creative resurgence. Taking cues from the squad of Chicago footwork producers he’d recently signed to Planet Mu, his production felt looser and more relaxed, with hi-hats blithely scattered across tufts of Reese bass. The music sounded like the macOS interface from which it came: optimistic, silicone smooth, and a bit uncanny, undergirded by a small tinge of lysergic spiritualism.

While Magic Pony Ride retains the gummy textures of his recent oeuvre, it is unusual in its overt nostalgia. Electronic pioneers like Wendy Carlos and Jean-Jacques Perrey influenced μ-Ziq’s work from the start, but here he’s equally fixated on his own back catalog. After finishing up the 25th anniversary remaster of 1997’s Lunatic Harness and pressing an onslaught of archival compilations, Paradinas decided to re-incorporate the era’s jungle breaks on the new record. The decision is charming when it works, but more often feels stiff compared to the material it’s referencing.

True to its title, Magic Pony Ride embraces Paradinas’ sugary side. Synths froth and squeak. Kitschy piano riffs ascend to euphoric heights. Sampled vocals coo. Songs like “Uncle Daddy” and “Turquoise Hyperfizz” contain some of his most unabashedly happy arrangements to date, ironing out the jazzy, occasionally dissonant wrinkles of traditional IDM in favor of pure indulgence. It’s the most exciting of the new developments in Paradinas’ style, merging the plasticky stringed melodies of Planet Mu signee Jlin with the dreamy headspace of Orbital.

The lower end of these mixes feels less inspired. On “Magic Pony Ride (Pt. 2)”, drum fills bob awkwardly beneath squelching synths, merely fleshing out the soundscape where a Lunatic Harness break might have pushed the track into unknown territory. Take the mangled percussion that crops up two-thirds of the way into that record’s now-classic “Brace Yourself Jason,” for instance, which slows things to a lossy, glitched-out crawl before Paradinas rattles off a pseudo drum solo. It’s a jarring detour, but the break reinforces the impact of the song’s melodic theme as it resurfaces one last time. The tracks on Magic Pony Ride may resemble these ancestors at a surface glance, but they lack the adventurous whimsy that earned comparisons to his buddy Richard D. James. “Unless,” which clocks in at a full six minutes, is the record’s most stagnant offering on this front, riding a flat, unadorned bassline for half of its runtime before a single kick or snare enters the fray.

Some of Magic Pony Ride’s best moments take place when Paradinas ditches the breaks altogether. “Picksing,” built around an oddly looped sample of his daughter’s voice, is both eerie and inviting, weaving breathy synths, bouncing keys and chopped vocals to immersive effect. The intro to “Don’t Tell Me (It’s Ending),” likely an homage to Brian Eno’s “An Ending (Ascent),” is also lovely, featuring cute pulses of vocoder that would feel right at home on a PC Music single.

The past 24 years of Paradinas’ work as head of Planet Mu have considerably broadened the horizons of mainstream club culture, introducing his audience to genres like footwork and bubbling house while encouraging the label’s artists to experiment and evolve. So while μ-Ziq ranks lower on his list of priorities than it did in 1997, it’s a little disappointing to hear such a retrospective project from an artist who’s always been down to toy with the sounds of the present. The flirtations with trap and dubstep that appear throughout his latter discography haven’t always succeeded, but they were at least admirable in their willingness to swing for the fences. Look to the remix EP μ-Ziq dropped in April for that missing sense of abandon: In the hands of footwork producers like RP Boo and DJ Manny, his tracks are pared down to the bare essentials, flayed to bits and rearranged into inventive polyrhythmic mosaics. Based on these two releases, Paradinas’ talents as a curator have eclipsed his own musicianship—when you’re surrounded by the future, looking backward can look like regression.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
µ-Ziq - Magic Pony Ride Music Album Reviews µ-Ziq - Magic Pony Ride Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on June 17, 2022 Rating: 5


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