Various Artists

Planet Mu 200 Comp

(Planet Mu; 2007)

By Philip Guppy | 22 October 2007

England still has a heart that desires innovation and the new and it beats thick with the blood of electronic music. We may fall and submit to bland exhumations of past victories in other genres, but in the electronic field England always remains relevant, resolute and undeterred, its eyes hungry for the prize. As is the case in relation to most genres little England cradles, innovation is birthed primarily by marrying a fantastic instinct for salvage with a desire to split genre bindings, appropriating and refracting techniques from various sources to sculpt out newly minted galleries.

Mike Paradinas is all too aware of his heritage. The work he did as U-Ziq and as curator of Planet Mu standing tall as an ornate ciborium, its frame dedicated to the continual mutation and subsequent evolution of the electronic sacrament. After launching his UK Planet Mu imprint with the help of Virgin in the mid nineties he continued to provide breathing space for an international stable of likeminded individuals, a church wide enough to receive both the blistering gabba of Shitmat and the creeping delicacy of the Gasman, culminating in this two-disc celebration issued to celebrate the two hundredth Planet Mu release.

The defining factor here is a sustained feeling of sickness, that sense of unease that makes its home in the overmedicated bowels of dub. The selection of artists included appear to conform to each other only in their affinity for the darker tones, their broken lines of sonar and shock drum corps washing up in waves, each different in mass and ferocity but comprised of a similarly deep hued alkalinity. Voices emerge at various points to gorge on exposed nerve endings. Pleasingly for such a multi-faceted collection there is a willingness to change the form of attack on a whim. Subsequently the obsolete Nintendo sonics of Ceephax brush their quaint boss stage theme and overpowered beats up against the insidious dubstep fug of Darqwan, creating an aural funhouse mirror out of smoked glass and nauseous angles that refuses to submit to one precise categorization, but leans heavily on elements of dub and reggae.

Unsurprisingly, the set works best when at its most unpredictable, such as Venetian Snares’ descent into the jarring juxtapositions of thick atmosphere and chaotic breakbeat syntax on “Devil’s Totem,” arriving like a drunken martial art striking around a rotting death metal vocal core. The track feels tight, its collected constituents working with purpose despite their seemingly random, overdriven nature. Another standout is Shitmat’s “Shut Up (Hellfish Remix)” which basically impacts like a rhythmic seizure. As a piece of music it’s assaultive, compacting a thousand pounds of pressure into a restrictive space; snatches of yelled confusion break through the epileptic rigor suggesting panicked flashes of reality being consumed by an uncontrollable biological crash.

It’s a welcome consideration that both of these discs play out with a sense of carefully selected sequencing, tempering the more extreme moments with more relaxed palate cleansers such as the Doubtful Guest’s opera led “Nannita” which provide an effective natural order, ensuring that no track is lost in a sustained blur of hyperactivity or opiated withdrawal. It’s true that not everything included here inescapably grabs the attention, but the lesser moments are so well integrated that they provide a natural lull, allowing the highlights to claim their own territory with greater authority.

This is undoubtedly a well constructed collection, both a primer and a coherent statement which demonstrates the strength of Planet Mu’s enviable roster of talent in a showcase that chooses to flow rather than simply display. There’s a definite feeling of nervous isolation engendered here, which could be seen as being to the album’s detriment, after all, twenty six tracks laced with murky pressure doesn’t exactly endear itself as a constant listening companion. However, taken in single disc sittings, 200 proves to be a muscular set that spikes its black tide with just enough adrenaline to remain invigorating rather than overwhelming. Planet Mu may not be the friendliest place to visit, but the range of vistas are worth the trip.