Barring the occasional remix, and of course the formation of Heterotic (who recently released their debut LP Love & Devotion) with his wife Lara Rix-Martin, Mike Paradinas's u-Ziq solo project has been quiet for a while. However, with XTEP, he makes a welcome return from hiatus, delivering a gentle taster for the forthcoming new u-Ziq album due this summer. In stark contrast to a large percentage of his previous work, XTEP is joyous all the way through. These five compositions abandon the furrow-browed quest for cutting-edge exploration, exchanging it for an altogether more carefree and fun approach, with only the footwork-influenced "Monj2" directly referencing any current electronic influences. On the gorgeous "XT," smudged piano and Moog recall the abandon of '70s pop melodies before the composition falls out into airy, arpeggiated funk with splashy drums. "Ritm" opens with ravey piano and whistling synths, condensing early dance music tropes into a gauzy, bittersweet haze. "Pulsar" is a perfect tribute to late-'70s cosmic space-disco, gently nudged toward more modern dancefloors with pulsing electronics racing above robust kicks and claps. After the aforementioned "Monj2" comes "New Bimple," where woody, swinging 2-step drums and downcast piano melodies bring the EP to a conclusion on a sadder, unresolved note. If one thing unites the approaches here, it's a newfound sense of emotion transformed into sound with the skill of a truly seasoned innovator. Welcome back u-Ziq!