Friday, May 21, 2004

Kid Spatula
Planet Mu Records
Released May 11, 2004

Forthcoming on

Having also recorded on leftfield imprints Warp and Rephlex, Planet Mu label boss Mike Paradinas here assembles a smattering of archive material under his Kid Spatula moniker. The tracks, recorded from 1994 to 1998, are astonishingly still relevant and not as abstract as one might expect, given the amount of groundbreaking yet difficult music of the time period. Artists like Autechre, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Luke Vibert and many others went into full-blown experimental mode, sometimes eschewing melody and any semblance of accessible rhythm. It was a rebellion of sorts from mainstream electronic music, one that actually ended up pushing things forward for all sorts of genres --Outkast’s Andre 3000 recently, and rather unexpectedly to most, namechecked Squarepusher as a major influence.

Meast is a comprehensive trawl through the DAT archives, 34 tracks in all. Pretty much every permutation of so-called IDM is on display, from frantic drum and bass breaks to largely ambient contstructions. 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 elements haven’t grown old well, “Further 2” being a prime example of such. It’s essentially glitchy drill n’ bass, with samples that betray their age and synth tones that sound extremely dated-- obviously one of the oldest tracks in Paradninas’ back catalogue. Yet, despite this criticism, you still have to consider the fact that this was made in 1994, over ten years ago.

A further example of Meast’s ecleccism comes with Tugboat, which takes a mid-ninties Ninjatune-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 was observing the unfolding scene from a completely different perspective, and decided to dip his toe in—in turn adding quite a bit of his own musical character. The only real point of reference to this breaks/ experimental synth hybrid sound is Luke Vibert’s early productions under his Wagon Christ guise.

All in all, Meast is an interesting overview of a forward thinking producer’s work. Its astonishly prescient at times, somewhat dated in others but overall, a highly engaging and comprehensive release for fans of the leffield genre.

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