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Wednesday, August 25, 1999

Faded funk

Posted By on Wed, Aug 25, 1999 at 12:00 AM

Mike Paradinas (mu-ziq) is, like his peers, Aphex Twin and Luke Vibert, a tremendous talent. In the brave new world of autistic dance music – which both flirts with and ignores the dance floor – Mike is the most brilliant of the idiot-savants, work-playing in the increasingly mined terrain of electronic music, from the break beats of hip hop to the ethereal computer-disco-meets-Alvin Toffler sounds of techno.

The personal twists of mu-ziq on this post-modern electronic music are his frequent forays into strings and atonal contemporary music, exemplified best by his latest record, Royal Astronomy, which nods to Schoenberg and Stockhausen – two old-time European gurus of 20th century musical deconstruction – as much as it does hip hop and drum ’n’ bass. The question is, as in all cases of musical hybridity – whether it be black slamming into white or DJ Red Alert floating along with Stravinsky – one of power: Who gets to do the cross-pollinating, for what audience, and for how much money? These days, it’s talented heads such as mu-ziq that get to decide what is included in today’s musical collages and what gets left out; what underground sources get mined out of their context and integrated into an increasingly privileged space where cultural politics takes a back seat to the lucrative search for the "cutting edge."

So, when in "The Motorbike Track" a Gang Starr vocal is sampled – "Knock that shit off, for real, know what I’m saying, that’s some greedy-assed fake bullshit" – the ambivalence of Paradinas’s position within electronic music – outside or inside, underground hipster or sold-out spin-maker, keeping it real or biting it hard, dropping the science or kicking it black-face – is made manifest. And though my sympathies lie with musical miscegenation rather than cultural conservatism, my "faking-the-funk" radar goes off when a few brilliant white kids get to tell the rest of the world what’s up in the urban underground–and then set it to strings.

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