µ-Ziq: Bilious Paths

Matt Gonzales


Bilious Paths

Label: Planet Mu
US Release Date: 2003-07-01
UK Release Date: 2003-06-02

Mike Paradinas is µ-Ziq, pronounced, simply, "music." He has released music under various appellations, among them "Jake Slazenger" and "Kid Spatula". But his primary moniker is µ-Ziq. There is no way to properly capitalize µ-Ziq. According to my PC's character map, "µ" is a micro sign. It is also the symbol for the Greek letter "mu." Hence the pronunciation, "mu-sic".

It is all very abstract.

Abstract as well is the music on µ-Ziq's latest release, Bilious Paths -- but you probably have already come to that conclusion. After all, anyone who calls himself µ-Ziq, and names his album Bilious Paths, is bound to make maze-like, esoteric sonic compositions. In this respect, µ-Ziq does not disappoint. In fact, those who are dipping their toes into the IDM pool for the first time would be well advised to begin their adventure from a less daunting starting point, such as Boards of Canada, or perhaps even Múm. This is not because µ-Ziq is helplessly abstruse; it's just that his dense and fractured electronic noise isn't the ideal curriculum for IDM 101.

Although he has been making and releasing music for more than 10 years, µ-Ziq isn't remotely close to being really, truly famous. But like any uncelebrated genius, those who follow the scene know and deeply appreciate him. µ-Ziq has collaborated with one of the most visible leaders of the modern electronic movement in Richard James (Aphex Twin), and he owns and runs the electronic label Planet Mu, which hosts a number of up-and-coming IDM artists, among which are up-and-coming young talents like Aaron Funk (aka Venetian Snares) and Keith Fullerton Whitman (Hrvatski). But µ-Ziq, unlike the often juvenile and always attention-starved Richard James, keeps it low and quiet, preferring to let his music and movement behind the scenes do his talking for him.

That's admirable and refreshing, isn't it? What's even more admirable and refreshing is the work µ-Ziq has done on Bilious Paths, Paradinas's first proper album in nearly five years. Featuring an assortment of songs that are at once blithely whimsical and tightly woven, Bilious Paths finds Paradinas making a concerted effort to be both daring and diverse, drawing from several different veins of the elliptical IDM corpus. The warped hip-hop samples on "On/Off" and "Silk Ties" find an unlikely home on the same album with the turbulent melodies and feverish beats of "Johnny Maastricht" and "Siege of Antioch". And all the way through, Bilious Paths features tremendous technical craftsmanship on the part of Paradinas -- but never at the expense of emotion. The album's most gratifying moments are when he piles layer upon layer of ostensibly incompatible beats and rhythms on top of one another, twirling and looping them into different shapes and textures, until finally achieving an improbable, exquisite balance.

It's a difficult record at times, but the most challenging part of all is figuring out what to do with it. There are times when the syncopated beats will entreat you to dance. There are other times when the treble-heavy dissonance will try your patience. And then there are times when the clicks, blips, and toy gun clatter will coalesce into a wildly synergetic soundscape that will leave your synapses quivering. Without a doubt, Bilious Paths' most rewarding trait is its intermittent, undeniable beauty. From "Meinheld", an anarchic sound collage of frantic beats and samples that gains shape and depth as it unfolds, to "My Mengegus", a sublime tone poem that commands trance-like absorption through the power of suggestion rather than brute repetition, Bilious Paths is further proof that µ-Ziq is an indisputable giant in the IDM world, even if few people can see him.

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