I revisit µ-ZIQ’s 1999 album “Royal Astronomy” every once in a while. His most major label release (on Virgin) it has an elegant quality to it that stood it above its peers when electronica had just passed a commercial and creative peak and felt like it was beginning to wane, here was an electronica album with smoothness, depth and an organic quality.
So I was excited to find that Challenge Me Foolish is a collection of leftovers from that period of µ-ZIQ’s career- an extra bonus hour of unearthed unreleased material with the same blend of glitched-up post-bigbeat irreverence and sample frenzy mixed with jazzy synth instrumental parts.
And sure enough, sonically it has a lot in common with “Royal Astronomy”, and you can easily believe that tracks like “Inclement” would’ve been included on that album if there had simply been enough space. Pieces like “Perhaps” and the poppy, named-after-a-biscuit-company “Peek Freans” are quirky, quite Wagon Christ-like instrumental numbers with a bit of playful experimentation that maybe even seemed a little too daft for the finished work. “Ceiling” is a fantastically frantic bit of glitchy jungle that probably only got left off the album for being too hard.
Some tracks, like “Undone”, do feel a bit less polished by comparison, as though the decision that they hadn’t quite made the grade was made before the track was truly finished off- but there’s certainly nothing wrong with them, no rough edges, just maybe a lack of decorative tweaking that truly album-ready tracks often get. “Perfame”, with its baroque melody, has some surprisingly weak-sounding synth strings that have a slight feel of ‘unfinished demo’ about them, but they’re certainly not poor.
For anyone who enjoyed “Royal Astronomy” or any of that late 90’s blossom of interesting electronica that Planet Mu were right at the centre of, this is a bonus hour you’ll definitely enjoy.