Tusken Raiders // Housewerk 1 & 2
One of Mike Paradinas’ finest side-projects is back in action and we’re looking for a pattern.
When Mike Paradinas revived the Tusken Raiders alias in earnest in 2020 it seemed he was distinctly focusing on the gnarlier end of the project. The history of his George Lucas-aggrieving pseudonym reaches back to the mid 90s, although it was initially shortlived thanks to legal pressure from the Star Wars industrial complex. In 2018 we were given a surprise whisper of familiarity when the Inchstar Static EP arrived on Furthur Electronix, offering up a previously shelved EP from 1994 which still stands as some of the roughest material the man best known as µ-Ziq has ever put out. Not necessarily the hardest, but the scuffed and scraped break dissembling was a far cry from some of the winsome melodies prevalent in much of his work.
2020’s Bantha Trax Vol. 3 appeared to be all new material, landing on Seagrave in a nod to the modern era of hardcore experimentalists. It confirmed the idea Tusken Raiders can’t be pinned down to a specific sound in the way many prolific artists’ side-projects can. Rather, it reflects a certain attitude on the part of Paradinas. It tends to be a bit noisier, a bit more lo-fi than µ-Ziq, darting into the shadowy corners of UK rave culture where the rag tag breakbeat sampling of The Blapps Posse flings around next to Yorkshire bleep and the dark intensity of the RIP parties still sticks to the walls. It’s certainly not meant to be sweet or pretty, but also not so fiddly and glitchy. There is space for melody, but it’s more understated.
These days Paradinas has the floodgates open with a lot of material to keep up with. His recent Scurlage and Goodbye drops demonstrate he’s on a roll with µ-Ziq, and his Bandcamp page spills forth with archive material and new gear alike. He’s always operated on his own terms as far as the business side of music is concerned, and the new digital model seems to suit him quite well. As such, you’d be forgiven for missing bits and pieces, and lo and behold there are now six volumes of new Tusken Raiders material made since the start of 2021. By way of an explainer, Paradinas framed the first two volumes as drawing on his voyage of discovery between 1989 and 1991. “In retrospect they were inspired by my first few years of exposure to electronic club music… I can hear the electro of Model 500, the deep house of Mr. Fingers or the rave energy of Belgian Techno,” he explained in a self-reflexive review, suggesting this was an unconscious influence rather than a pronounced tribute act.
Furthur Electronix have done a useful service in picking up these first two volumes and presenting them as an LP, pulling the nine tracks out of the Bandcamp melee and giving everything a bit of breathing room (not to mention the pomp and ceremony of ‘traditional’ releases). Even without Paradinas’ tasting notes, any casual raver would spot some classic styles being thrown into the blender. ‘Gelignite’ has a vintage drum machine jack, while and the rowdy synths atop two-note, off-key monosynth bass are explicit in their lineage. Crucially though, this doesn’t sound like music from 1991 even if the reference points are there. That nightmarish lead sounds a little too dexterous for an early Belgian brainmelter.
Sending the rough n’ ready Tusken typecasting into disarray, ‘Houzz 11’ champions a vibe somewhere between Larry Heard and SAW-era Aphex, but funnily enough the more immediate old-skool reference is Tango N’ Vectif-era Paradinas. Like it should be, he remains an artist who can’t help but sound like himself even when he’s relaxing into music-making as presumably fun and comfortable as these tracks must be. There’s still something holding back from the full tilt µ-Ziq sound though – an ineffable quality which sits this stuff apart, a certain rawness.
There are other moments of beauty as above. ‘Amnesia’ features some lingering piano notes, but they’re floating nervously above a murky sound bed of submerged techno. ‘Perigog’ is an exceptional downtempo groover adorned with b-lines and leads which seem informed by 80s boogie and synth-pop as much as techno, but with a gloriously sinister key change which tells you it’s still the Tusken Raider at the controls.
Elsewhere, things are pointedly edgier. ‘Belm’ and ‘Slow Belm’ are a standout pair which hark back to the earliest Tusken record on Clear, favouring detuned synth patterns and knotty beats that lock into techno thrust on the former and scrappy machine funk on the latter. It’s all quite simply outstanding, tickling at the pleasure receptors in its gentle callback to bygone eras, but still sounding utterly individual and varied across the entire 50 minutes, like the best acid-era record you never heard. Does it make the Tusken sound any more defined? Not really, other than to say it remains a wholly different side of Paradinas’ musical output, but not at the expense of the occasional charming overlap.