Photographers: Ben Curzon; Adam Ferriss.
Chewed Corners, æ-Ziq's 2013 full-length and his first in six years, found Mike Paradinas diverting from the sound he'd established in the mid-'90s, doing away with aggressive, intensely edited breakbeats and moving toward something more reminiscent of the early days of techno and IDM, while still keeping an ear to more recent developments in electronic music. Paradinas' synthesizer melodies remained as bright and expressive as ever, but the tones were different, leaning toward pianos and other sounds reminiscent of early house music. The beats also suggested early techno and house rather than glitchy drum'n'bass, but there was also significant influence from artists that Paradinas had released on his Planet Mu label, such as Kuedo and various associates of the dubstep and Chicago footwork scenes. XTEP was released concurrently with Chewed Corners, and similarly found him exploring new sounds, but also veering a little closer to some of his previous work. Most notably present were the warm synthesizer melodies reminiscent of library music, children's television programs, and other sounds Paradinas grew up with. Rediffusion followed up a year later, and the two EPs were combined (along with a bonus track from the Japanese edition of Chewed Corners) onto full-length CD XTLP. Instead of presenting both EPs in order and tacking the bonus track onto the end, the tracks are re-sequenced so that they flow better as an album. Sprightly, lightly funky "XT" opens the set, and "Ritm" is a nostalgic glance back at early-'90s piano house. "Pulsar" is one of the disc's most straightforward dance tracks, with upfront 4/4 beats and flashing arpeggios reminiscent of Italo-disco. The disc's clear highlight is "Monj2," which blends complex, distorted rhythms inspired by Chicago footwork with soaring, emotive melodies for something truly exciting and awe-inspiring. "Forger" and "Taxi Sadness" mine similar terrain, combining breezy uptempo breakbeats with lush synth pads. The album finely demonstrates Paradinas' knack for creating highly expressive electronic music with a rich sense of melody and an embrace of forward-thinking production, but not without a fond glance to the past. ~ Paul Simpson