Having also recorded on leftfield imprints Warp and Rephlex, Planet Mu label-boss Mike Paradinas assembles on Meast a smattering of archive material under his Kid Spatula moniker (he also records as u-Ziq, Diesel M and Jake Slazenger, among others). The album’s 34 tracks, recorded from 1994 to 1998, are astonishingly still relevant and not as abstract as expected, given the amount of groundbreaking but difficult music of that time period; Autechre, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and Luke Vibert went into full-blown experimental mode in the mid-’90s, sometimes eschewing melody and any semblance of accessible rhythm. It was a rebellion of sorts from mainstream electronic music, one that actually ended up advancing all sorts of genres. Outkast’s Andre 3000 recently — and unexpectedly — name-checked Squarepusher as a major influence.
Meast is a comprehensive trawl through the DAT archives. Pretty much every permutation of so-called IDM is on display, from frantic drum ‘n’ bass breaks to largely ambient constructions. An absolute standout is “It Starts with Bongos,” where mid, low and high percussion tones dance over a basic kick/snare beat, augmented by synths that wash over the entire composition. It’s dripping with melody and rhythm, in stark contrast to the syncopated chaos of tracks like “Off Lemon.”
On occasion, some tracks show their age. “Further 2” is essentially glitchy drill ‘n’ bass, with samples that betray their age and dated synth tones. It’s obviously one of the oldest tracks in Paradinas’s back catalogue. Still, you have to consider that this was made in 1994, more than ten years ago.
“Tugboat” takes a mid-’90s Ninja Tune-esque jazz break and adds the characteristic synth washes and bass blurps, which was a bit more forward-thinking than anything that was done in the sample-based (dare I say trip-hop) scene from the time period. It’s as if Paradinas observed the unfolding scene from a completely different perspective and decided to dip his toe in — in turn adding his own musical character. The only real point of reference to this breaks/experimental synth hybrid sound is Luke Vibert’s early productions as Wagon Christ.
Still, Meast is an interesting overview of a forward-thinking producer’s work. It’s astonishingly prescient at times, somewhat dated in others. But it’s a highly engaging and comprehensive release for fans of the genre.