Review Summary: Connoisseurs of electronica will already be aware of Mike Paradinas. After exhausting all of Richard James' material, anyone new to the genre may be looking for an alternative out of the Rephlex label. Lunatic Harness delivers.
Electronic music and dance music are distinct but related entities in the music world. When they converge on each other, you quite often receive something mainstream adores and obscurity shuns: electropop, club techno, etc. Those who listen to electronic music defined in the traditional sense are wary of the inherent tendency of such subgenres to appeal to a broad demographic.Those that enjoy electronic music, as with any other genre, tread lightly through the veritable minefield with every observation they make. Much like with metal, generalizations are bad
. However, I am taking time to mention this theory because of one of the exceptions to the watered-down synthesis created by the dance influence. This exception is the discography of IDM artist Mike Paradinas, better known by his alias u-Ziq
Of course, many have expressed their distaste with the label "IDM", which stands for Intelligent Dance Music. While I must agree that it comes off as a statement of superiority over other electronic music at first, it is ultimately justified by the style of Paradinas' work: carefully crafted pieces mixing ambience and a large drum and bass influence. The result is an astoundingly deep soundscape that Lunatic Harness
, while by no means an extravagant revolution, will demonstrate to the uninformed listener, and what IDM entails.
The album pulls off a humble series of intriguing tracks, each with their own unique quirks. There are a few variations in the general flow of the album, and for much of the duration it may be difficult to put one's finger on just what the hell
she or he is listening to. Slightly more ambient pieces transform into faster ones halfway through. This requires the listener's patience before the true nature of a particular track -much like the album itself - is revealed. The songs aren't rampant by any means when they go into this so called "second gear". That said, the tracks from "My Little Beautiful" onwards are a tad softer and less conventional than the others, which are more straightforward in their presentation. For example, listeners will no doubt be impressed with the heart-tugging lament and urgency inspired by both the sound and title of "Hasty Boom Alert" - a personal favorite of the author's.
"My Little Beautiful", however, will take some acquaintance, as this oddball presents a rather uncharacteristic early 90's movie-like theme. This is where the patience should be demonstrated, as it actually builds into something quite nice and
retains the opening theme, albeit subtly. "Wannabe", the only creepy track, is something you will either enjoy or never want to hear again, with growling, oily vocals repeating a stalker-like refrain in tandem with crunching beats. For the rest, two-to-three playthroughs are prerequisite for turning the irk - stemming from the semi-cheesy loops Paradinas incorporates - into appreciation. "Midwinter Log", and the "Secret Stair" pair, like track 7, may be difficult to listen to because of their strange violin synths and departure from the thrilling pace of "Brace Yourself Jason".
defines itself as being a true-to-form and complex electronic work, while avoiding becoming too ambient and free-floating; conversely, it does so without falling back on drum and bass too heavily as well. This is a balance rather difficult to fine-tune, as seen in the later works of fellow artist Aphex Twin, that attempted the mixture but only achieved it very sporadically. Lunatic Harness
has not a trace of filler -looking at you, drukqs
- and while its experimentation may leave some confounded for a few brief and awkward moments, it is forgivable once the listener finally
figures out and accepts it's deviational nature. This is very much attributed to the lack of structure - it no doubt serves the album well in this instance - as well as the flavor of the opener that carries throughout the entire collection to counteract the flippancy. A quirky listen, strongly recommended.