Mike Paradinas, aka µ-Ziq, probably didn’t have longevity on his mind when he launched Planet Mu back in 1995. Originally an imprint of Virgin Records, the label was intended merely as an outlet for µ-Ziq’s own brain-bending productions; there was little to suggest a new chapter being carved into history. Besides, most experimental electronic labels reach little further than their wooden anniversary.
Yet Planet Mu, long free from Virgin, celebrates its 25th birthday in rude artistic health, a glorious reminder that record labels can be held together by inspiration rather than genre. Over the last 25 years, Planet Mu has released key records in jungle (Remarc’s Sound Murderer), dubstep (Pinch’s “Qawwali”) and footwork (Jlin’s Dark Energy), while providing a welcome home to the kind of outsider IDM with which µ-Ziq made his name, notably the work of Venetian Snares. That none of these artists appear on anniversary compilation PlanetMµ25 demonstrates Paradinas’ admirable devotion to pushing into the future rather than sponging down the past.
Footwork has been key to the past decade of Planet Mu, after the label introduced the Chicago genre to European audiences on Bangs & Works Vol. 1. It seems right, then, that two of footwork’s leading lights should provide the most party-starting tracks on this birthday release. RP Boo’s “Finally Here (ft. Afiya)” is a sassy riot of well-worn samples and acidic squelch, while Londoner Basic Rhythm adds glitchy intensity to a remix of DJ Nate’s “Get Off Me (Betta Get Back)” a song originally found on Nate’s 2019 album Take Off Mode.
Taking its cues from Paradinas’ intrepid A&R, the compilation references Planet Mu’s recent adventures in grime (East Man & Streema’s menacing yet wobbly “Know Like Dat”) and outsider pop (the unsettling gloss of RUI-HO’s “Hikari”) while carving a small space for nostalgia. Meemo Comma’s gloriously gothic “Tif’eret” recalls the cinematic proto-hardcore of Meat Beat Manifesto’s “Radio Babylon,” while Konx-om-Pax and Bogdan Raczynski pay homage to Planet Mu’s roots in braindance and extreme IDM on “Rez (Skee Mask Remix)” and “tteosintae.”
True to the label’s ethos, it is the most adventurous, least genre-dependent artists who really shine on PlanetMµ25. Ripatti—better known as Finnish electronic auteur Vladislav Delay—delivers a sound so densely packed with rhythm and chaos on “Flowers” that it resembles five footwork records playing at once. This unholy melange fits surprisingly well next to Speaker Music’s “Techno Is a Liberation Technology (feat. AceMo),” a similarly genre-ambivalent track that sets haunting jazz licks against a drum machine in free fall. Chicago producer Jana Rush’s “Mynd Fuc” also dabbles in jazz, its low-key piano stroll doing little to soothe nerves frazzled by the black-hole turbulence of her drum programming.
Like any good party, PlanetMµ25 can get overwhelming at times; FARWARMTH’s “Shadows in the Air” is like listening to the jerk of a tickly cough, its stuttering production more defect than enhancement. But the compilation demonstrates with considerable panache that even as it passes the quarter-century mark, Planet Mu continues to break new ground. In 25 years, Planet Mu has gone from Virgin Records to virgin territory—a far healthier place to be.
Buy: Rough Trade
(Pitchfork earns a commission from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.)
Catch up every Saturday with 10 of our best-reviewed albums of the week. Sign up for the 10 to Hear newsletter here.