Aside from family duties and running his Planet Mu empire, Mike Paradinas has seemingly spent the majority of the 2010s going through his archives. He hasn't released much new music during this period, apart from one LP and two EPs as µ-Ziq and two albums as part of Heterotic, the synth pop duo consisting of him and his wife, Lara Rix-Martin. Apart from these, there have been several collections of rare and unreleased material, not to mention hundreds of loosies uploaded to SoundCloud, most of which date from the '90s. Challenge Me Foolish is a collection of mostly unheard tracks produced near the end of the decade, around the time Paradinas toured with Björk in support of Homogenic, and was working on the woefully underappreciated Royal Astronomy. Like that album, these tracks often have a sort of "baroque" sound to them, filled with canned synths which imitate strings, horns, bells, and timpani. The melodies are often bright, chipper, and playful, but there are melancholy or sinister undertones to some of them. The beats aren't always as fast or convoluted as those on µ-ziq's landmark 1997 release Lunatic Harness, but they're still complex and exciting. Several tracks here feature vocalist Kazumi, who regularly collaborated with Paradinas during this era and subsequently worked with several other notable electronic artists such as Enduser, Arovane, and Aaron Spectre. Her sweet, mysterious vocals often seem to fall just outside the realm of comprehension, and to beg for interpretation from the listener; songs like "Challenge Me Foolish" and "Sad Inlay" are named after the closest approximation to what she appears to be saying. A few of the tracks on this collection will be familiar to Paradinas' hardcore fans. "Bassbins," a rave throwback with ethereal synths and a heavy, growling bassline, previously surfaced on a promo single for Royal Astronomy cut "The Hwicci Song." Two other tracks were briefly released as part of a free digital EP in 1999. "Ceiling," like several tracks on the Full Sunken Breaks album Paradinas issued under the name Kid Spatula, toys with Hellfish-indebted gabba/breakcore but adds bouncy, whimsical melodies to the barrage of mind-numbing breaks and mutilated hip-hop samples. "Perfame" is almost the complete opposite -- instead of a massive adrenaline rush, it's all heavy-hearted reflection, with a particularly emotional melody appearing halfway through which just punches you in the gut. Even with moments like this, the album is still a whole lot of fun, filled with the childlike sense of wonder common to much of Paradinas' best work. The late '90s were clearly a magical era for him, and Challenge Me Foolish is just as essential as any of his other releases of material from that period.
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AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson