Urmur Bile Trax, Vols. 1 & 2

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Mike Paradinas combines two EPs for domestic re-release on Astralwerks and asks a lot from his listeners by being atypically scatterbrained. The title track sounds like an arm-wrestling match between Paradinas and Bogdan Raczynski (let's call it "Mu-zynski"); it's a cacophony of sound with those gratuitous James Brown vocal yelps, breakbeat drum loops, and punishing distortion. "Let Let" shows some playfulness, with a goofy riff of toy noise and a little hippity-hop drum funk, somewhat reminiscent of Luke Vibert's early Plug material. "M5 Saabtune" follows in much the same way, with a squeak toys segue to shuffling gurgles of percussion that finally give way to mere hints of melody and chord progression -- two sorely missed elements that keep more of these songs from succeeding. "Fine Tuning" unfolds in the spirit of his jazzier Gary Moschelles material, but it's either the song structure or the studio mix that keep the song from ever taking a stand. "The Hydrozone" ripples through the ear bones with a go-go dancer bassline, rhythm box hiccups, and ethereal clouds of ambience that vanish as quickly as they appear, setting the stage for a more promising second half. A couple surprises await listeners familiar with his first Rephlex release, Tango N. Vectiff. Here, µ-ziq remixes two tracks from that album, originally titled "The Sonic Fox" and "PHI* 1700 (U/V)," though in the process he ends up showing off his new studio computer equipment more than any newfound musicality. With "1 Hip 007*," he breaks the original piece apart so thoroughly as to leave nothing but shards in its wake; he explores the beauty and the ugliness of it for 13 fantastically uneven minutes. "The Phonic Sox" continues in the same exhaustive tradition; it's as if Paradinas spent too much time programming and not enough listening. "Hornet" flops around between hyperactive psychedelic hip-hop and drill'n'bass film noir raga. As mentioned before, this is part of the overall problem with Urmur Bile Trax: there are too many disparate elements and not enough musical glue to hold it together. At the time, few could have guessed he was capable of such electrifying beauty as revealed in his very next release, Lunatic Harness. Buy that instead.

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