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The Secret Ambient Discography of Mike Paradinas, 1992-2014 (25-Track Playlist)

illustration by Jason Asato
Syro-mania is in full effect, and many of us leftfield electronic music fans are finding ourselves nostalgic not only for Richard D. James' catalog but for the entire braindance canon. Take FACT Magazine's "The 100 Greatest IDM Tracks" feature from earlier this week, not to mention the too-many-to-count RDJ primers that have surfaced since Syro's cryptic announcement last month. It seems likely that the Warp back catalog is surging on Spotify and other platforms. New fans are playing catch-up by inhaling '90s and '00s IDM content like they're cramming for finals, and seasoned fans are dusting off their Black Dog and Metamatics LPs. (I had an IDM college radio show from 2000 until 2004, so count me in with the latter camp.)

One figure that is likely to receive prime inheritance from these shenanigans is Mike Paradinas, bka μ-Ziq, head honcho of Planet Mu Records and something of an RDJ career doppelgänger. I don't use "doppelgänger" in a disparaging sense—I just mean that Mike has an uncanny number of parallels with Richard. It's almost as if whenever Richard achieved a landmark moment in his career, Mike made nearly the same achievement at nearly the same time, albeit perhaps on a smaller scale.

Let's put this notion to the test shall we?

Richard D. James vs. Mike Paradinas

You may notice that—in terms of the important points—Richard and Mike are essentially equals in most ways. Of course we can be left to quibble over who is the better producer and musician, and clearly Richard has garnered more notoriety. But the fact remains that both are highly influential leftfield electronic artists who collaborated and drew inspiration from one another, helped build a scene, dabbled in curiously similar musical disciplines, and shared a career arc. One clear edge that Richard has over Mike is the release of the Selected Ambient Works duology. With this series, Richard was able to elevate his audience past the IDM crowd and into psych, prog, fusion and modern classical circles. Plenty of other artists were dabbling in ambient in the early and mid '90s (The Orb, The Future Sound of London, Global Communications, the FAX label), but Richard's angle was more purist, and it earned him the understood title of Brian Eno's successor among many and was greatly instrumental in establishing his cult following.

Mike has been releasing ambient music throughout his career as well. In fact, he's released exponentially more ambient music than Richard since Richard's release of SAW II in 1994. The difference is that Mike's ambient output has been sprinkled around evenly across his albums throughout his 20-year-plus career—a track or two here, a track or two there. Might the notoriety of the two have been more paralleled if Mike had been the one who focused his ambient efforts into SAW-style packages in the early '90s? It's worth pondering. In any case, I have compiled most of Mike's commercially available ambient work into a single playlist. Have a listen and hear for yourself how it measures up to SAW I and II:

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