Mike Paradinas, best known as µ-Ziq, owns my heart and soul. From his humble new wave keyboardist roots in the ‘80s, to the Francis Naughton/Paradinas incarnation of µ-Ziq (featured on the double-album, minimal techno debut Tango N' Vectif released on Richard D. James' Rephlex label), to his now famous and supremely legendary Planet Mu label, Paradinas has proven to be quite the visionary. And he's savvy, too. He haggled with Virgin Records to allow unlimited recordings under multiple names, bearing pseudonyms like Jake Slazenger, Kid Spatula, Gary Moscheles, Tuscan Raiders, Rude Ass Tinker, and others. And after following Squarepusher's lead into headphone drill & bass and experimental glitch before settling back on a more coherent fusion of his earlier influences during his stay at Astralwerks, Paradinas truly stole my heart when he broke off from the evil Virgin in the late '90s, making Mu an independent planet unto itself.
In spite of all that history, Duntisbourne Abbots Soulmate Devastation Technique is actually just the second album released on his own label under the µ-Ziq name. The previous release, 2003's Bilious Paths, was a hearty mix of get-up jungle, heavy techno, and dense ambient; it was also the best-selling album in the label's history until Venetian Snares' Hungarian nightmare Rossz csillag alatt született put the entire label permanently on the radar of the indie elite. With song titles like "Grape Nut Beats" and all, Bilious featured a decidedly "Happy Mike." But since the release of that album, he and his partner have split up, if the title of this new album and dead-body artwork didn't already tip you off that something darker was going on here.
With Duntisbourne, playtime is over. It’s a complete contrast to the happy Justice electro currently dominating the electronic charts, but it’s based on a heartfelt need for proper inner-torment expression/expulsion, not on a trend. This album shows Mike engrossed with inner torment and the pain that only exists where the ebb and power of love disappoints and fades. As such, it's his most focused and driven album, hearkening back to his early minimal post-techno days, both thematically and stylistically. The round, rolling bassline and old-synth-laden "Dirtylush Stinkwife" is the new centerpiece to your electronic break-up mixtape. And "2CV," with its static loop, overly compressed ambience, tribal bassline, and menacing, froggy sub bass, certainly reinforces the mood. Whereas on his last few LPs an almost forced variety dictated a party atmosphere, the two aforementioned tracks act instead as pieces to a puzzle.
From just outside the mainstream, history will remember Planet Mu as a fertile breeding ground for some of the most exciting and innovative electronic music ever released. Paradinas essentially launched, or at least tremendously propelled, the careers and musical trajectories of edIT's tweakin' LA hip-hop, the glitch-hop/breaks of Capitol K, Hrvåtski's schizophrenic hardcore, Nautilis' ambient downtempo, the throwback ragga of Shitmat, and the indie-darling breakcore of Venetian Snares, as well as boosting the careers of legends like jungle pioneer Bizzy B and Luke Vibert, the jack of all genres. And with Duntisbourne Abbots Soulmate Devastation Technique, µ-Ziq's singular, haunted, and terrifyingly depressive techno think piece may prove to be his best work, start to finish, in a decade. It's the kind of album to get dark and dirty to when all that is good in the world appears to have failed.