Planet Mu’s Mike Paradinas, AKA µ-Ziq, has been on an interesting journey over the past few months. Though he’s been releasing music steadily on his label, his latest album Magic Pony Ride is his first collection of totally brand new music for Planet Mu since 2013. He’s otherwise been releasing material from the archives; a retrospective victory lap tied to and gravitating around the orbit of his 1997 major breakthrough Lunatic Harness. Harness celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and in the process of re-mastering the album for a special edition release, Paradinas happened upon troves of unreleased material would would come to form the basis for his recent EPs, and perhaps more significantly, a look into the development of his style. While Mu the label has come to be synonymous with some of the most forward thinking and convention defying dance music around (think Jana Rush’s footwork subversions, or Vladislav Delay’s industrial noise), Paradinas is actually a bit of a traditionalist. His passion for classic, golden era UK dance music is possibly the reason why he’s pivoted to a more behind the scenes role since the late 90’s, and likely why revisiting his old work has sparked inspiration. That, and riding Icelandic horses across glacial landscapes at dawn, to be exact. As such, Magic Pony Ride is heavily informed by the classic breaks of jungle, though the music here sparkles with a wide-eyed whimsicality.
The title track opens Magic Pony Ride with shimmery synths and twinkling harp chords, a halftime drum beat racing in the background. On Uncle Daddy, spacey arpeggios undulate alongside an ethereal vocal sample and glowing drones while Elka’s Song trickles forth with a childlike naivety that could pass for something off the Sims soundtrack. But where Magic Pony Ride gets really interesting is when Paradinas contrasts the light with jungle’s inherent shadows. Turquoise Hyperfizz is almost PC Music in its approach; opening with saccharin chords before surging into decaying breakbeats that grow increasingly more abstract and syncopated. Unless pairs a throbbing bassline with ebbing, warm drones and manic drum’n’bass percussion, while Brown Chaos sounds like two separate tracks spliced together like a finger-painted mutant. Juxtaposing the juvenile with the harder edges of his influences brings about an underlying poignancy to Magic Pony Ride, a sort of rumination on the loss of childhood or the longing for innocence. That sort of childhood melancholy is explored on the album’s final track, Don’t Tell Me (It’s Ending). With a distant choir of voices and a pensive synthline, the track distills the bittersweet disappointment of finishing your ice cream and intertwines it with similar sorts of adult heartbreak, like the ending of a relationship.
Magic Pony Ride works on Paradina’s nostalgia for an earlier time on the dancefloor, but in doing so it risks making space for him in the present. Still, it’s an otherwise fun venture into his whimsical side and perhaps the beginning of a next chapter that’s still to be written.
Listen to Turquoise Hyperfizz from Magic Pony Ride below.