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Few UK labels have been as influential, diverse and consistently cutting-edge in the wider electronic music scene as Planet Mu. Nearing a landmark 450 releases, it’s a label which continues to shine a light on global movements while staying rooted in its UK heritage.

Planet Mu turns twenty-six years old this year. It feels both fitting and strange at the same time - it has a rich legacy of artists, styles and iconic records to match such a lengthy run. At the same time, it’s also a label which has positioned itself as a fresh and essential outlet for many emergent genres which have surfaced over the years, often highlighting their more esoteric side.

Planet Mu x Bleep T-Shirt

  • Artist
    Various Artists
    Planet Mu x Bleep T-Shirt
    Planet Mu Records Ltd.
    Release Date
    July 5, 2021

    Exclusive Planet Mu x Bleep T-Shirt designed by Joe Gilmore

“I feel like I am always looking for material which challenges me in a way, however small, either structurally, socially or melodically,” explains Mike Paradinas, aka μ-Ziq, the label founder. “I like to hear artists saying something new in the album format, or sometimes just have material that makes me want to dance.”

Planet Mu sprung to life in 1995, initially running on a subsidiary of Virgin called Hut Records and used principally as an outlet for Paradinas’ output as μ-Ziq. Paradinas had been working on the idea of releasing other artists’ material, which was pitched to the head of Hut Records at the time. “He allowed me to try the idea out with the Various Artists “Mealtime” compilation,” he says of the pitch. “The fact that this was the last Planet Mu record on Virgin tells you what they thought of the idea.” Thankfully undeterred by this, by early ‘97 label plans were fast taking shape, with a selection of artists lined up for the first run.

Early Planet Mu output was characterised by a lot of hi-speed braindance and glitchy break manipulation, verging on breakcore at points. Venetian Snares was one of the most prominent, alongside the likes of Shitmat and Ceephax Acid Crew. There were plenty of acid-tinged excursions courtesy of Luke Vibert too.

Junglists of a more experimental slant also found a home on Planet Mu. Breakage, Equinox, Remarc and Bizzy B all brought their own takes on drumfunk and amen-led chaos, having all come through on established jungle and drum and bass labels in the years prior.

Planet Mu would also be pivotal in the development of dubstep, particularly its more experimental strands, as the sound traversed the globe following its explosion out of the South London boroughs where it was nurtured. The mid-00’s saw Planet Mu releasing pivotal tracks, like Pinch’s Qawwali (his track ‘Attack Of The Giant Killer Robot Spiders!’ remains an excellent foray into the wonky, bleepy side of 140). The deeper and murkier side of dubstep was thoroughly covered - Milanese, Benga, MRK One, Kuedo and Distance all contributed music to the label. Mary Anne Hobbs’ Warrior Dubz compilation in 2006 captured the sound of a scene which was exploding with potential.

Dubstep’s crossover with grime, a natural extension with their similar tempos and overlapping family trees, was well-documented with a string of releases by Manchester’s Virus Syndicate. “Virus were from Manchester and seemed to me to be in the tradition of other Northern hip hop like Ruthless Rap Assassins, whose album I had loved back in 1990, but with a Grime and Dubstep influence (neither terms had yet been coined of course),” Paradinas says of the connection.

Planet Mu also housed some of Floating Points’ earliest work - ‘J&W Beat’ came out on 12” in 2009, with the astounding ‘K&G Beat’ on the B-side. “He was just about to release his debut 7” on Eglo at that time,” Paradinas recalls. “I think it was Mary Anne Hobbs who told me while on a phone call to check out his Myspace, and those 2 tracks were on his profile page.” Sure enough, another track of his, called ‘Esthian III,’ would appear on Mary Anne Hobbs’ Wild Angels compilation for Planet Mu shortly afterwards.

In a similar vein, there’s an array of diverse and melodic sides to the label discography. Ital Tek has been contributing tough, multi-genre dancefloor trax with an emotive edge since 2008 up to the present day. Tropics released a run of records which included the breakout single ‘Mouves’, which were a kind of shoegaze-influenced electronica, alongside Solar Bears’ blissed-out arpeggio trips.

One of the joys of labels with such a galactic-scale discography is in the incidentals; unique moments of idiosyncratic inspiration. Oriol’s technicolour trip through synthesiser funk Night & Day from 2010 is one such gem; as well as edIT’s melodic glitch-hop album Crying Over Pros For No Reason from 2004. Right up until the present day, albums like Eomac’s excellent leftfield techno LP Cracks of this year stand out in their distinctiveness.

The only problem with a back catalogue as expansive as Planet Mu’s is being able to shine a light on its myriad facets. Recently the experimental compositions of Rian Treanor and the politically-charged sonic warfare of Speaker Music both earned Bleep’s Album of the Year awards in the years in which they surfaced. There’s the complex-but-deadly club music of Gabor Lazar, the post-industrial chug of John T Gast and the lo-fi acid manipulations of Ekoplekz.

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