Dance music may be one of the foremost areas of musical progression around, but reverence is constantly being paid to its past: from drawing on its influences, to remixing its classics. So when a collection of “lost” and forgotten tracks by one of the genre’s consistent innovators reappears after 15-or-so years (on DAT tapes labelled ‘1995-1998’), such a discovery should be treated as folklore come to life. Indiana Jones had his Holy Grail, Francis
Bacon had Atlantis, and now d’n’b fans have ‘Back On Time’: a collection of mid-‘90s work by legendary beat maestro Luke Vibert under his Plug alias.
The first thing that hits you about ‘Back On Time’ is how fresh the tracks sound, despite some of them being a staggering 17 years old. (Actually, when you consider who’s behind them, it’s probably less surprising). The cold synth work of ‘Scar City’ hints at later Vibert works ‘YosepH’ and ‘Lover’s Acid’, but it’s this track’s Detroit techno vocal samples and jazz-inflected keys that set the tone for the following cuts. ‘Feeling So Special’ has a liquid
feel, reminiscent of what the likes of London Electricity and Aquasky were doing around that time, while the cut-and-paste dialogue of ‘Come On My Skeleton’ displays Vibert’s eternal humour and playful nature.
The middle trio of ‘A Quick Plug For A New Slot’, ‘Mind Bending’ and the title track delve deeper into Vibert’s creative crates, with the former’s Amen break twists and the latter’s liberal scattering of percussion and metallic bass hits belying the complexity that runs through his back catalogue. There are mellower moments (‘Yes Man’) and seven-minute-plus slow builders (closer ‘Flight 78’), all of which show range, yet the domination of Aphex Twin/Squarepusher-type insanity of tracks like ‘Drum N Bass’ removes this set from the reaches of the club and into the headphones, where it delights and amazes. Let’s hope Vibert doesn’t leave it another 2 decades before pulling out some more hidden gems.
‘Back On Time’ is release via Ninja Tune on January 9.