μ-Ziq 1977 Balmat
Finding a home on the Lapsus Radio offshoot Balmat, μ-Ziq’s 15th studio album sees him depart from breakbeat mutations in favour of amorphous compositions which focus on mood and atmosphere. But while a strictly ambient record sees him break new ground stylistically, in many ways, 1977 evokes the past. As well as referencing seminal μ-Ziq works, the artist born Mike Paradinas nods purposefully – at times parodically – to bygone scenes, movements and aesthetics. In doing so, he rethinks the parameters of the ambient LP, toying with nostalgia to form a rich tapestry of cultural vignettes.
The 90s chillout room is reincarnated through the three opening tracks. On 4AM, muffled 808s, gauzy pads and beatific choral vocals call to mind The Orb for an indulgent, hedonistic soundtrack to early-hours acid trips. And with minds suitably altered, things take an occasional left turn. With a detuned drone and ominous arpeggio, Belt and Carpet could feature in a John Carpenter horror score, while on Marmite a razor-sharp, metallic synth broods ominously beneath the surface, conjuring the apocalyptic atmosphere of 80s cyberpunk.
As displayed by his 90s drill ‘n’ bass records, where d’n’b was escalated ad absurdum, Paradinas has long had a penchant for lodging tongue firmly in cheek. So it can, at times, be difficult to decipher whether the referential nods are a celebration, or a parody. Tracks such as Reference Gravy, with both its title and cult horror score inflections encapsulate the pastiche at the core of 1977, and hark back to the satire of much-loved early μ-Ziq works, In Pine Effect (1995) and Royal Astronomy (1999).
Whilst the album’s self-awareness makes it intellectually appealing, at times it comes at the cost of the listener’s capacity for pure enjoyment. The highlights of 1977 are the tracks that forfeit cross-reference, and explore something more heartfelt and true. On Burnt Orange, for example, a breakbeat is slowed down to resemble a jazz beat, while a shimmering melody unfurls across an otherworldly soundscape. Tracks such as this remind us what it is that μ-Ziq does best: making experimental music that is both familiar and intoxicatingly beautiful.