Your 25th birthday is a momentous occasion for a number of reasons.
For one, you’re a quarter of the way through life, if we’re going by a centenarian timeline. You’d also fall into the ‘Overs’ category if you were to audition for X Factor during its early years. And if you’re a record label, say, UK imprint Planet Mu, turning 25 signals a lengthy devotion to forward-thinking artists and music. It’s a celebratory milestone.
It’s hard to overstate the impact that Planet Mu‘s had on electronic music since its launch in 1995. The imprint began life as a Virgin Records sub-label and an outlet for founder Mike Paradinas’ work under his µ-Ziq alias. Three years later, in 1998, Mu took its first steps into independent territory in a move that’s quite clearly paid off, if its extensive back catalogue and cult status is anything to go by.
Over the years, Mu has stayed faithful to a risk-taking and originality-driven approach. It’s something the label shares with the talented cast of artists who’ve released on it. It’s championed groundbreaking acts and tracks from all corners of the electronic music spectrum, from DJ Rashad, RP Boo or Jana Rush to Venetian Snares, Jlin, Machinedrum, Ziúr, Rian Treanor, Heterotic (aka Paradinas and his wife, Lara Rix-Martin), Terror Danjah, Ikonika, Mr. Mitch and more.
This is testament to Paradinas’ taste, in some regards, which clearly favours innovative material over any one genre. It’s a preference, or perhaps an attitude, that ensures that Mu remains a hub of styles and substance spanning IDM, footwork, dubstep, juke, grime and more.
Mu is to release a new 15-track compilation on 4 December to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The compilation, titled PlanetMµ25, weaves a thread between label mainstays and regulars. Ahead of its release, we asked Paradinas to run us through 25 key releases from the Planet Mu shelves.
“Jega was my first signing to Planet Mu back in 1996. I was trying to get it all together to release what became his Phlax and Card Hore EPs on Skam, but RTM distribution was bought by Vital and my label manager was let go. This was from Dylan’s second album Geometry in 2000. It was a distinct step up from the midi music of Spectrum and was his first record all created ‘in-the-box’.”
“Kristian gave me one of our first demos at a Planet Mu night in Brixton. We had a little bit of Radio 1 play with this single, I think it got to number 90 in the charts or something. It was a fantastic piece of ramshackle electronic indie pop and I still love it. XL Recordings did too and licensed the album off us and re-released it a year or two later.”
The Way Of The Homeboy (The Winter Of Discontent)Hellfish and Producer
“I had been DJing Hellfish & Producer’s tracks for a couple of years before I contacted them about doing a compilation of some of their 12”s. Their music was a 200 bpm evolution of the early nineties hardcore sound, but gone in a very different direction to the drum’n’bass of the time.”
Falling Angels Entering Pandemonium (Coil Remix)Slag Boom Van Loon
“Geoff and Sleazy had contacted me asking me to be on a compilation they were putting out (it never saw the light of day) so I asked if they were interested in doing a remix for this ongoing project (3 years in gestation). I was a big fan of Musick To Play In The Dark Vols 1 and 2 so was very pleased when they agreed [to] a swap of my track for this, instead of payment.”
Dance Like You’re Selling NailsVenetian Snares
“Not the first Venetian Snares album we released, but the first time he entered the wider consciousness, I think. It was this track that did it. Jo Apps on operatic vocals (she performed live with him at Bangface, I recall) and a melody from an old Morricone soundtrack.”
Acid 2000Luke Vibert
“I was very happy that Luke agreed to let us release his first EP for Mu (96-99 EP) a couple of years earlier, but this second EP was always my favourite. Four really strong tracks including this one, which makes me quite emotional. Just the right level of cheesiness and not overboard on the vocal samples either.”
Bad No BloodclartRemarc
“I called up Lewi (of Remarc and Lewi fame) from the phone number on a garage 12”. He got me in touch with Marc and we put out the two compilations including this 3LP of unreleased dubs which was a highlight for me. I was also honoured that he put a new Thunderclap on the 20th anniversary compilation five years ago.”
“Drew had been sending me demos for a while, maybe a couple of years, when this came along. It totally surprised me as did the album Love Is A Liability he created to support it. Very slinky mixture of garage beats, synths and vocal samples. Drew has gone from strength to strength and now has his very own label, Blueberry.”
Turn Back TimeDJ Nate
“I’d been listening to Chicago footwork for at least 18 months by the time this came out. Footwork was a shock for me; what I needed after the soporific bpm’s of dubstep and its post-variants. DJ Nate’s variety was very reminiscent of UK hardcore so that’s why it was particularly appealing.”
Amerikkka’s Bay (ft. Maia Sanaa)Speaker Music
“I first met DeForrest in Cafe Oto a couple of years ago when he played with Kepla. We were discussing his first release for Mu of desire, longing but not much prepared me for this year’s Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry. It’s a record that aptly describes this dispiriting year and DeForrest’s cousin Maia’s performance is a powerful opening track.”
Planet Mu will release PlanetMµ25 tomorrow (4 December). Pre-order here.