on 19 January 2012
In a 2004 interview, Luke Vibert (aka Plug) insisted that he hadn't released the best tracks that made up his 1996 album, Drum `n' Bass for Papa. `I really like Plug 1 and Plug 2, Plug 3 is OK and the album was pretty good too, but I don't think I compiled the best tracks.' This is an astounding admission, not least because the album was one of the seminal releases of the flourishing and divergent dance music scene in the mid 90s. He has admitted, too, that he can no longer create any new Plug tracks. `Y'know I just can't,' he says, `it's hilarious. I still try every so often to do a Plug track and I just can't do it - I don't know why. It just ends up sounding like an Amen Andrews track which is why I came up with that stupid name in the first place. I think the Plug stuff was how it was because I was just getting into jungle and I wanted to have a bash and it went slightly wrong in a way.' So, if Vibert thinks he got it wrong on Drum `n' Bass for Papa, did he get it right on these 15-year-old Plug tracks, finally gathered together onto an album entitled Back on Time?
Proceedings kick off with `Scar City', and `kick off' is the right expression. The bass drum kicks in straight away and we are immediately back on familiar territory. The track is a stunning mix of sampladelic vocals and a melodic, metronomic bassline, all driven by an off-kilter yet highly infectious rhythm track. `A Quick Plug for a New Slot' is equally impressive and could have easily sat anywhere on Drum `n' Bass for Papa. Its beats are so propulsive and catchy that the whole thing just leaves you breathless with its energy and enthusiasm. Perhaps the album's best track is the title track, which has the same monster bass and sprangy, time-stretched beats as the title track of Drum `n' Bass for Papa. The album closes with another highlight, `Flight 78', which has the same tight, ersatz-jazz feel as `Delicious'.
One of the most amazing things about Drum `n' Bass for Papa was that no track was under 7 minutes long. The vocals on the brilliant early Plug EPs were goofy and the beats choppy, but Papa showed more attention to the development and flow of each track as it was built up steadily to a head-crunching climax and was then given a slow, long outro. That's not the case on Back on Time - only two tracks exceed 7 minutes and a couple hover around the 3-minute mark. `Come on My Skeleton' is a bit ravey while `No Reality' and `Mind Bending' would fit better on one of his Wagon Christ releases, but these are mere quibbles when faced with such killer tracks.
As with previous Plug releases, Vibert's trademark humour is evident all over these tracks, but don't be fooled - behind the apparent tomfoolery is a master producer, whose productions are tightly arranged, beautifully programmed and sequenced. Drum `n' Bass for Papa was a showcase for Vibert's extraordinary production skills and techniques. He is a master of making a track that, while seemingly cut'n'thrash and throwaway, moves you forward in unexpected, compelling and clever ways and the tracks on Back on Time are no exception and equally good. Luke Vibert might think that the output released under his Plug moniker `went slightly wrong' but Back on Time shows how wrong he was. It brings him right back to the future and bang on track.
on 18 January 2015
If it wasn't for the odd corker from Origin Unknown and Doc Scott, Alex Reece, etc, this for me is the point where DnB reaches its apex.
Still hammer this on the old iRiver when out and about - ideal for tube journeys - try it with quality in-ears like 535s at 720p or flac and try to keep a smile off your face - the man Vibert's a consistent 8 for me over the years, but this is a 9.9.
A must-have album!