If Daft Punk and Boards of Canada can make a comeback this year then why not Mike Paradinas? True, he never really went into hiding - he owns/runs the label Planet Mu, responsible for the steady drip of electronica from white-hot emergent producers. But bar surfacing this year with Love & Devotion, a dream-pop project with Lara Rix-Martin, aka Mrs Mike Paradinas, he’s been quiet since 2007 as µ-Ziq and the mixed reception to his seventh LP.
Not anymore: it seems mixing Love & Devotion prompted some visits to the garage, and the result is Chewed Corners; a synth LP chopped with arrhythmic, E-ravaged beats that nods at the contemporaries Paradinas has been grooming. Unlike his muddled Duntisbourne Abbots Soulmate Devastation Technique of six years ago, Chewed Corners focuses on the landmarks of Paradinas’ vinyl collection: Aphex Twin, the Art of Noise, Orbital. His response feels like record of seamless cameos, like Edgar Wright made an ambient techno album. On ‘Christ Dust’ the popping, slithering beats recall Selected Ambient Works’ ‘Tha’, while ‘Feeble Minded’ uses a churning keyboard attack like a ninja platform game of your dreams. Paradinas has a knack for bending his palette to recreate the greats: the bass, gentle footwork off-kilter operatic slabs of ‘Talkon’ sound like Orbital in slow motion, and the four-chord trance pads and intricate beatwork of ‘Melting’ pay tribute to Toytronic Records, whose vinyl-deprived fan base will scarf this down like methadone.
Paradinas isn’t content with making a nostalgia record, and it would be foolish of him not to draw on the cutting-edge producers he’s signed over the years. He displays a fondness for the brass synths Kuedo made his name with - ‘Tickly Flanks’ could be an extract from Severant if its creator had been into The Lawnmower Man instead of Blade Runner, slathered in acid house, psychedelic synths and erratic, brain-scrambling beats. ‘Wipe’s house piano phrases and syncopated drums could pass for a Laurel Halo single, while the jabbing dub techno of ‘Houzz 10’ is like a 12” from any Modern Love artist shot through with Roland TR-808s.
Sometimes Chewed Corners’ determination to ape a particular style comes at the expense of melody: the album featuring as many half-sketches as it does memorable hooks. While this gives it a sense of scale, it does feel at times as though Paradinas has set out to forge his favourite Alan Silvestri soundtracks and got distracted by modern tech. But for every misfire - the fatigued ‘Gunnar’, or the choral melody and dub slabs on ‘Smooch’ that don’t stir into each other - there’s a moment of delight: ‘Twangle Melkas’ click track and rippling low-end are like an Amiga game beefed up by the Pet Shop Boys, and show just how much attention Paradinas has paid to so many genres. While it might not be as iconic as the records it admires, Chewed Corners is an invigorating return for the Planet Mu head honcho.
7George Bass's Score