µ-Ziq - Bilious Paths    
Bilious Paths
The first µ-Ziq release on Mike Paradinas' own Planet µ label since he debuted it with a 1997 double EP, Bilious Paths returns him full circle to the master-craftsman mayhem of that year's Lunatic Harness. And since it's also his first full-length not on a major-distributed label since 1995, Paradinas allowed himself a refreshing degree of latitude when it came to genre workouts (hardcore techno, junglistic dread madness, chilled experimental techno). Still, there isn't a track here that's not clearly, recognizably, obviously a µ-Ziq production, from the tympani-led symphonic majesty of "Octelcogopod" to the breezily shape-shifting melodies and pummeling beats of "Meinheld," with plenty of space for the lab-coat drill'n'bass he preferred during the late '90s. As usual, Paradinas is also slightly too humorous for his own good, both with his titles (the two-part "Grape Nut Beats") and with his productions ("On/Off," which repeats a naughty vocal sample far more than it deserves). Highlights abound, but this is definitely one for those used to the blend of heavy innovation and occasional inanity to be found on nearly every µ-Ziq record. - John Bush
01  •  Johnny Mastricht
02  •  Meinheld
03  •  Siege Of Antioch
04  •  Octelcogopod
05  •  On-Off
06  •  Silk Ties
07  •  AEC Merlin
08  •  Grape Nut Beats (Pt.1)
09  •  Grape Nut Beats (Pt.2)
10  •  Mouse Bums
11  •  Fall Of Antioch
12  •  My Mengegus
µ-Ziq - Brace Yourself    
Brace Yourself
The Brace Yourself EP sees the release of one amazing song, a number of passable slices of breakbeat ambience, and a couple throwaways. The title song is in fine form on both of its appearances - its opening remix and its reprise. "Brace Yourself (Remix)" is the kind of song that further proves Mike Paradinas's mastery of emotional breakbeat music. The song is a high-pitched, melodic marathon as charming as it is accomplished. The closing reprise slows things down a bit, providing an appropriate chill-out vibe. In between the song's two appearances, it's a mixed bag of songs that sound a bit too similar. "Kubba" and "Vaken Bolt" are nothing new for µ-Ziq and not nearly compelling enough to qualify for the lullaby status of the opening number. The remaining songs cascade with electronic sound effects and sweet melodies, but qualify as little more than bass-heavy breakbeat filler. Critics of µ-Ziq's drill'n'bass modus operandi will be happy to know that Paradinas is working more in the vein of Lunatic Harness and Royal Astronomy than in the experimental wickedness of Urmur Bile Trax, Vols. 1 & 2. Other than the remixes of "Brace Yourself," Paradinas seems to be saving his best B-sides for his full-length Kid Spatula releases on Planet µ. - Tim DiGravina
01  •  Brace Yourself (Remix)
02  •  Kubba
03  •  Vaken Bolt
04  •  Losers March
05  •  Summer Living
06  •  Intellitag
07  •  Abmoit
08  •  Brace Yourself (Reprise)
µ-Ziq - Fear, The    
Fear, The
µ-Ziq's The Fear EP sees electronic musician Mike Paradinas in a relatively lighthearted mood. "The Fear" shows up in two forms. The first version is identical to the one that appears on his Royal Astronomy album. It's one of that album's more easygoing moments, combining a touching melody, sampled horns, and Kazumi's fragile, abstract vocals. "Houzz 8" is a jazzy, faster-paced B-side. It's fun background music, but it doesn't really stand out against Paradinas' more experimental, emotional back catalog. Comprising mostly high-pitched electronics, there's not really much to wrap one's mind around. "Morning Frolic" is perhaps slightly more interesting, if only because there's a bit of suspense built into its core; under swelling strings and synth textures, it appears the song will burst its seams and turn into a classical composition at any moment. The second appearance of the title track is sequenced last, as "the fear remix." The title of the track says it all; it's a more sprightly, less effective replay of the original. Where the album version hints at melancholy and sadness, the remix affects a stop-start shuffle, and Kazumi's vocals are distorted, making for a less compelling rendition. µ-Ziq is capable of creating deeply emotional music. When he's simply playing around in the studio, as he appears to be doing on this EP, his music is worthwhile, but not vital. That's not to say that Full Sunken Breaks, released in close proximity to The Fear (under Paradinas' Kid Spatula alias), isn't immensely enjoyable; on that album, Paradinas went all out in his creation of bass-heavy funk. On The Fear, it sounds too much like Astralwerks told him submit to a couple of B-sides. - Tim DiGravina
01  •  The Fear
02  •  Houzz 8
03  •  Morning Frolic
04  •  The Fear Remix
µ-Ziq - In Pine Effect    
In Pine Effect
His most stylistically developed album under the µ-Ziq name to date. Although Paradinas is big on insisting his music isn't for dancing, most of the tracks here feature a familiar dancefloor pulse, with alternately arresting and sidesplitting melodies floating above signature percussion and some interesting brass work. "Phiesope" even samples Kristen Hersh! - Sean Cooper
01  •  Roy Castle
02  •  Within A Sound
03  •  Old Fun #1
04  •  Dauphine
05  •  Funky Pipecleaner
06  •  Iced Jem
07  •  Phiesope
08  •  Mr. Angry
09  •  Melancho
10  •  Pine Effect
11  •  Problematic
12  •  Green Crumble
µ-Ziq - Lunatic Harness    
Lunatic Harness
Mike Paradinas' first success story from the frontlines of ambient/electro/drum'n'bass experimentation comes via his second attempt, Lunatic Harness. Following the brief but for the most part uninteresting toybox chop-up of 1996's Urmur Bile Trax, the album escapes the mire of noncommittal cheekiness (an affectation that also damaged some of his Jake Slazenger work) by returning to early releases such as Tango 'N Vectif and Bluff Limbo for inspiration, fusing pretty, affecting melodies and dynamic ambient atmospheres with beats that manage a tight balance between structured groove and complete chaos. - Sean Cooper
01  •  Brace Yourself Jason
02  •  Hasty Boom Alert
03  •  Mushroom Compost
04  •  Blainville
05  •  Lunatic Harness
06  •  Approaching Menace
07  •  My Little Beautiful
08  •  Secret Stair Pt. 1
09  •  Secret Stair Pt. 2
10  •  Wannabe
11  •  Catkin And Teasel
12  •  London
13  •  Midwinter Log
µ-Ziq - Royal Astronomy    
Royal Astronomy
After the drum'n'bass updates on his previous full-length, Royal Astronomy in large part returns Mike Paradinas to the green pastures of his youth - electro-slanted melodic techno and post-rave ambience with an eye on classics of his early career like Tango 'N Vectif. From the cinematic opener "Scaling" and the simple melodies of the single "The Fear" (with vocals by a Japanese-born, British-based author named Kazumi), Paradinas keeps it simple throughout. Indeed, the pendulum bass and synth-strings on "Gruber's Mandolin" could have been taken stock-and-barrel from either of his first two Rephlex albums. Still, there are breakbeats all over this record - and on two of the best tracks, the gorgeous production titled "Carpet Muncher" and "Autumn Acid," a song slightly reminiscent of Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker." There's also plenty of hip-hop attitude on other tracks, from the Gang Starr sample on "The Motorbike Track" to the turntable spinbacks on "The Hwicci Song." For the most part, it's obvious that Paradinas' sampler has moved on and gained for it. - John Bush
01  •  Scaling
02  •  The Hwicci Song
03  •  Autumn Acid
04  •  Slice
05  •  Carpet Muncher
06  •  The Motorbike Track
07  •  Mentim
08  •  The Fear
09  •  Gruber's Mandolin
10  •  World Of Leather
11  •  Scrape
12  •  56
13  •  Burst Your Arm
14  •  Goodbye, Goodbye
µ-Ziq - Salsa With Mesquite    
Salsa With Mesquite
01  •  Salsa With Mesquite
02  •  Happi
03  •  Loam
04  •  Reflectiv
05  •  Leonard
06  •  Balsa Lightning
07  •  Balsa Lightning (Jake Slazenger Remix)
µ-Ziq - Tango N' Vectif    
Tango N' Vectif
This album immediately paired the young bedroom rat as a contemporary of Richard James (Aphex Twin), on whose label it appeared. The offbeat envelope-pushing themes and occasional heavily distorted percussion sees the comparison through, but that's where the similarity ends. His only full-length work with former bandmate Francis Naughton. [The 2001 reissue changes the track order and offers a second disc including 13 tracks and many songs not available on the original edition.] - Sean Cooper
01  •  Tango N' Vectif
02  •  Swan Vesta
03  •  Burnt Sienna
04  •  Iesope
05  •  µ-Ziq Theme
06  •  Auqeam
07  •  Vibes
08  •  Ad Misericordiam
09  •  Beatnik #2
10  •  Die Zweite Heimat
11  •  The Sonic Fox
12  •  Caesium
13  •  Phi 1700 (u-v)
14  •  4 Time Egg
15  •  Phragmal Synthesis Pt. 1
16  •  Phragmal Synthesis Pt. 2
17  •  Phragmal Synthesis Pt. 3
18  •  Xenith Filigree Anus
19  •  Whale Soup
20  •  Amenida 2
21  •  Paco
22  •  Crosstown Traffic
23  •  Xolbe 2
24  •  Driving Is Easy
25  •  Methyl Albion
26  •  Glink
µ-Ziq - Urmur Bile Trax Volume 1 Volume 2    
Urmur Bile Trax Volume 1 Volume 2
Mike Paradinas combines two EPs for domestic re-release on Astralwerks and asks a lot from his listeners by being atypically scatterbrained. The title track sounds like an arm-wrestling match between Paradinas and Bogdan Raczynski (let's call it "Mu-zynski"); it's a cacophony of sound with those gratuitous James Brown vocal yelps, breakbeat drum loops, and punishing distortion. "Let Let" shows some playfulness, with a goofy riff of toy noise and a little hippity-hop drum funk, somewhat reminiscent of Luke Vibert's early Plug material. M5 Saabtune" follows in much the same way, with a squeak toys segue to shuffling gurgles of percussion that finally give way to mere hints of melody and chord progression - two sorely missed elements that keep more of these songs from succeeding. "Fine Tuning" unfolds in the spirit of his jazzier Gary Moschelles material, but it's either the song structure or the studio mix that keep the song from ever taking a stand. "The Hydrozone" ripples through the ear bones with a go-go dancer bass line, rhythm box hiccups, and ethereal clouds of ambience that vanish as quickly as they appear, setting the stage for a more promising second half. A couple surprises await listeners familiar with his first Rephlex release, Tango N. Vectiff. Here, µ-ziq remixes two tracks from that album, originally titled "The Sonic Fox" and "PHI* 1700 (U/V)," though in the process he ends up showing off his new studio computer equipment more than any newfound musicality. With "1 Hip 007*," he breaks the original piece apart so thoroughly as to leave nothing but shards in its wake; he explores the beauty and the ugliness of it for 13 fantastically uneven minutes. "The Phonic Sox" continues in the same exhaustive tradition; it's as if Paradinas spent too much time programming and not enough listening. "Hornet" flops around between hyperactive psychedelic hip-hop and drill'n'bass film noir raga. As mentioned before, this is part of the overall problem with Urmur Bile Trax: there are too many disparate elements and not enough musical glue to hold it together. At the time, few could have guessed he was capable of such electrifying beauty as revealed in his very next release, Lunatic Harness. Buy that instead. - Earl Danvers
01  •  Urmur Bile
02  •  Let Let
03  •  M5 Saabtone
04  •  Fine Tuning
05  •  The Hydrozone
06  •  1 Hip 007
07  •  Hornet
08  •  The Phonic Socks