Multi-faceted electronica pioneer once again sets aside the pseudonyms
Cornish-raised maverick Luke Vibert has operated under a bewildering array of pseudonyms, from Wagon Christ for his more chilled out funk adventures to Plug and Amen Andrews for his drum ’n’ bass and jungle manoeuvres. His debut EP for Mo’ Wax, 1995’s ‘A Polished Solid’, was the first time he used his real name and since dropping the ‘Big Soup’ album for the label in 1997, he’s chalked up seven Vibert full-lengths for stables as impressive as Ninja Tune, Warp and Mike Paradinas’ Planet Mu. Apart from making it easier to keep track of his prolific output, bringing his work under one banner has another even more important advantage. It offers him the freedom to mix and match styles and tinker at their edges and it’s that sense of freedom which means his records just keep getting better and better.
From the gentle, witty hip hop of ‘Knockout’ at the opening of this release, to the Pac-Man-sampling, dancehall-drenched jungle tearout ‘Don’t Fuck Around’ at its close, Vibert may play havoc with the genre classifications, but his offering is consistent and consistently ace at that. Whatever he comes up with is always witty and playful, both in terms of the array of inventive vocal samples and the quirky twists the music itself takes, and it is always coaxed along by fresh, infectious beats. What’s particularly refreshing is that where others in the electronica field go to great lengths to seem big and clever, Vibert puts the same amount of effort into making his tracks inclusive and accessible.
Take ‘War’, for example, which lands slap bang in the middle of ‘Bizarster’. It has hip hop at its heart, with a cymbal smashing beat that will no doubt bring comparisons with DJ Shadow to bear. As it builds though he introduces warm swathes of brass and tinkling vibes that beautifully offset the more aggressive rabble rousing of the war-declaring MCs. It’s highly original without making a big deal out of it. It’s sonically uncompromising, but easy on the ear and sure to get heads nodding and feet heading toward the dancefloor.
‘Manalog’ – as you’ll have noticed, he’s as fond of a pun as a Sun headline writer – and ‘L Tronic’ have more of an acid influence, the former evoking the choppy rhythms of early 90s techno, the latter looking back even earlier to the bold synth basslines of Chicago house. But in each case, again, there’s no po-faced attempt to be authentic as these elements are combined with a sense of percussive swing and lively stoned fun that is entirely his own.
Likewise, ‘Ghetto Blast Ya’ takes on the cliches of rave’s early days and lovingly sculpts something utterly modern from its charging Amen breaks, spinbacks, stabs and sirens. ‘Officer’s Club’, meanwhile, is probably the simplest moment here, an unfettered disco groove lightly embellished with frisky keyboards and intertwining vocal lines.
It’s probably unfair to pick out highlights as ‘Bizarster’ is more than a sum of its parts. It’s rich in variety but consistent in its inventive, joyous tone. Aphex Twin might be the household name, but those who really know their West Country electronica inside out will be just as excited by the arrival of a new Vibert album as anything Richard James has to offer.