Once again, blame it on the television. After watching innumerable car commercials, movie previews and sports spots rock to the edgy, space-age beats of techno/drum ‘n’ bass/genre of the month, the sound doesn’t engage like it once did. It feels better suited as a backdrop to the one-dimensional sci-fi mythology of the Matrix (in an advertisement for Heineken.)
Mu-Ziq (pronounced “music”) is a skilled tech manipulator who earns respect for his decade-long stint as one of the electronic community’s more consistent producers. Universal accolades on the Aphex Twin scale have eluded him, however, and Bilious Paths falls under the banner of satisfactory but unimpressive, particularly for notoriously fickle electronica fans. Mu-Ziq’s style finds common ground among a group of producers/artists who began releasing their heady electronic collages in the early nineties. The tag Intelligent Dance Music was applied liberally throughout, though some found it difficult to move in any consistent way to the hard splintering beats and ambient drones of Luke Vibert and Squarepusher.
A major problem with Bilious Paths is recording quality, which often feels as if all elements were processed through a guitar amplifier-sounding overly distorted and lacking a solid bass presence. Many drum tracks, like those on the wandering “Octelcogopod,” resemble huge masses of crinkling aluminum foil, producing more than enough grating noise to drown out the heavy ethereal keyboards (which are borrowed directly from Aphex Twin’s Ambient Works Volume 2.) The “Put them panties on, take them panties off” dancehall call samples of “On/Off” and the brief hip-hop interludes of “Silk Ties” feel overly calculated.
Luckily, Mu-Ziq relocates his dexterity during “Grape Nut Beats” parts one and two, playing a dizzying game of hopscotch on his beat machine. He seems unwilling to sit on a single sample pattern for any extended period, and as the breaks run together smoothly I’m reminded of Coldcut, with Mu-Ziq’s drum machines in particular very closely resembling their excellent ’97 set 70 Minutes of Madness. Also effective is the floating melody on “Fall of Antioch,” a welcome relief from the album’s percussive onslaught.
Attackers often deride “techno” as a faceless, predictable style, a platform for the simple act of knob twiddling. Unlike lesser electronic composers, however, Mu-Ziq’s work contains a distinctly improvisational element, as computerized flanger arrangements and hi-hats seem to drop spontaneously at any given moment. Constantly shifting beats are both his most unique asset and his most considerable setback. Much like new Planet Mu signee Hrvatski, Mu-Ziq’s abilities are unquestionable, but his refusal to stand still can grow frustrating. He also lacks some of Hrvatski’s skill for extreme stylistic gymnastics and high drama, resulting in an album which delivers truly worthwhile thrills only for those still-loyal devotees of mid-90’s IDM.