Mike Paradinas, the man behind µ-Ziq and peerless electronic label Planet Mu, has been a central figure in progressive and inventive electronic music for over 20 years. His work both as a label boss and as an artist has been very much founded on the principles of exploring sound and all the possibilities it possesses. Just as important as the sound itself is its relationship with the body and the mind. This relationship is at the forefront of all his work and Chewed Corners, the first µ-Ziq album for six years, is an album that is the product of all those years of exploration.
Chewed Corners can be seen as something of a companion piece to Love & Devotion, the album that Paradinas released with his wife Lara-Rix Martin as Heterotic. That album was a step away from the harder edged techno productions of his recent material. The songs were more melodically defined and dreamy; this is something that is carried over into a µ-Ziq album that luxuriates in a graceful evocative beauty.
The music collected here flows and glides. It sounds like the work of a man who understands perfectly the music he wants to make and the feelings he wants to convey. The album is a product of his years of experience working within electronic music. There is no overarching influence or sound. Instead, echoes of abstract and ambient electronic history flutter through the music. You can hear just as much that is redolent of Aphex Twin as you can that brings to mind the dazzling invention of the Chicago footwork producers like RP Boo that Paradinas’ label has done so much to promote.
Many of the best tracks here are glorious pieces of dreamy and woozy electronica. Christ Dust has a lovely elastic and spacey sound that represents the “Retro-futurist” sound of the album, as Paradinas describes it. Elsewhere, Twangle Melkas is wonderfully lush and lissom smooth, its synths blessed with a gentle and symphonic quality. The addition of a number of choral vocal effects in the distance emphasises the sort of dreamlike gracefulness that the album is imbued with.
The sense of melody and melodic invention is more pronounced than on the most recent µ-Ziq release, 2007’s harsh and oppressive Duntisbourne Abbots Soulmate Devastation Technique. A piece like Melting Bas almost sounds like the Cocteau Twins if their primary instrument was a synth wired to a sampler. The way the soft focus textures combine with a gently bubbling beat is quite sublime.
Elsewhere, the album is highlighted by two tracks that show why Paradinas is such a revered figure. Houzz 10 is a quietly spellbinding piece of repetitive, ghostly house; its languorous groove and diaphanous textures float off blissfully into the ether. Tickly Flanks is even more impressive. Here, Paradinas merges almost effortlessly the high-energy footwork sound to some stately translucent gaseous synth sounds. It’s a beguiling concoction.
Some parts of the second half of the album are perhaps rather too soft focus and understated, but there is still a remarkable amount of skills and invention on show. The smoothed out bass wobble of Hug is particularly good. The album’s most impressive piece, however, is saved for last. The archly titled Weakling Paradinas is a seven-minute composition that represents all that is special about the album. Beginning with a minimal metronomic beat, it swiftly blossoms with insidious piano lines and twinkling synths on a rising tempo before building to a glorious euphoric crescendo.
Chewed Corners is a perfect comeback. It’s an album full of vivid, reflective, yet inventive electronica that ties together all of Mike Paradinas’ influences. A fitting comeback from a pioneering electronic musician.