Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review: Heterotic - Weird Drift

The explorative new collaboration delivers, but doesn't surprise enough.
by Dustin van Wyk

British producer Mike Paradinas, best known as IDM pioneer “μ-Ziq”, is an artist with a reputation as a risk-taker. He earned this reputation through his progressive and ever-expansive music career and through the record label he runs, aptly titled “Planet Mu”, which has helped start the careers of some of electronic music’s most exciting acts such as “I'tel tak”, “Traxman” and “Poemss”. Last year saw the debut of his latest project, “Heterotic”, a collaboration between him and his wife Lara Rix-Martin that surprised loyalists for its conservative and subdued approach. “Heterotic” gravitates to a more atmospheric sound that integrates elements of R&B, house and dream pop.
Their latest offering “Weird Drift”, sees the duo expanding on their 2013 sound with the ethereal opener, “Self Importance”, a song that combines dissonant arpeggio lines that gallop throughout, orchestral vocal cuts, and expanding airy synths that envelope the song in an eerie atmosphere. This is contrasted with the surreal “Sultana”, an instrumental beginning with a stoic Rhodes chord progression that slowly expands with the help of a whaling 80s synth melody line that jumps out of the track while carefully sequenced drum mallets sounds help give the song a sense of urgency. Paradinas and Rix-Martin play with the dynamics of the song by fading in new melodies and altering the drum patterns to give the track an organic edge. The instrumental ends off perfectly with a romantic solo that only gently touches the surface of the song as it helps slow the pulse of the piece, leaving only a Rhodes to tie up the rest of the track.
The biggest shift that defines this release from their debut is the introduction of French producer, Vezelay, as he replaces Gravenhurst on vocal duties. His reverb-soaked falsettos compliment the minimal synth work and slow-moving nature of the tracks. On “Shoe Soul”, we see him ease over washed out production while the ebbing synth sounds on “Triumph” are cloaked by his echoing harmonies. At times his efforts become monotonous as he doesn’t strain himself to add variety to his melodies. The techno funk sounds in “Florence” expose Vezelay’s inability to adapt or add variation to his vocals as they fall into the background, while Paradinas and Rix-Martin’s dynamic and twisting production punctuate through his delivery.
Interludes “Liverpool”, a sentimental piano driven instrumental, and the guitar-driven “Foghorn” provide breathing space and act as preludes for the tracks to follow them.  Albeit short, they give cohesiveness and musical context to the album as a whole.
“Weird Drift” is by no means conventional but does see “μ-Ziq” (with the aid of his wife) indulging and exploring in different musical avenues. Velezay’s sensual and soothing vocals with Heterotic‘s crushing synthesisers create a dreamy affair that consolidates the sounds of the duo’s previous effort.