Mike Paradinas has always been known for his odd juxtapositioning of sound, and his latest effort Royal Astronomy is no different. A year hiatus after releasing both Lunatic Harness and the Brace Yourself EP, he's back with another full length adventure, and he's already straying off the path that he was heading down so smoothly. There are a few tracks on the release that recall the frenetic beats of the previous two releases, but Royal Astronomy also goes down a path of a sort of demented classicism, with even more stringed instruments and light orchestral sounds (no doubt due to his work with a string octet on a several of the tracks).
In fact, when you first put in the CD, you may get a strange feeling that you're not hearing the right thing. "Scaling" starts off with nothing more than some stringed instruments, and never really takes off, although Mr. Paradinas adds some of his own strange electronic gadgetry (like some strange little choral "oohs" and "ahs" and off-kilter chimes). Still, there is no beat at all in the track, and it's essentially a classical track (albeit, a slightly twisted one). From there, the album goes into more strings and some funny little French Horn sounds, but it gets cranked up a lot more with a fat beat and some scratching. "The Hwicci Song" still has those stringed instruments, but it's more like the µ-Ziq of old with the crazy beats and surrounding environment. From there, the disc goes into the electonic twang of "Autumn Acid" and another sans-beat, kinked-classical "Slice" before dropping into the 3-minute "Carpet Muncher." It's a funny little drill and bass track like so many of the ones on his previous two releases, but it packs so much into it's short time that it's a definite winner.
After the distorted, thicker sounds of "The Motorbike Track" and the experimental clanging of "Mentium," the disc drops into the first single from the disc called "The Fear." Not only does it continue along the same pseudo-classicism feel of the other tracks, but it has vocals(!) by Kazumi. It's a pretty, sweet little track that is completely different than anything he's done before, and a very nice excursion. After two more shorter whimsical stringed pieces and the buzzing "World Of Leather," the disc closes out with 3 great tracks. "56" is sort of a mid-tempo breakbeat number with an eerie choral sample, while "Burst Your Arm" goes full-throttle skittering all over with schizo beats and feedback squelch progressions. Things close out with another vocal collaboration on the shimmering "Goodbye, Goodbye."
Overall, Royal Astronomy is a very interesting album, and it's one of those releases that will take you several listens (even if you've been a fan of previous µ-Ziq) to digest. Not only that, but it will probably take you a couple more after that to decide how much you like it. If you're a fan of his faster, more crazily-paced stuff, you might not find enough of a fix here, but there's also a great amount experimentation going on in terms of sounds. Some of it works, but some of it feels sort of underdeveloped unfortunately. At least you can't say his sound is stagnating.