Plug

Back on Time

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AllMusic Review by

So ask yourself this: when was the last time you heard a really great drum'n'bass album? Not a techno album with occasional jungly flourishes, not a drill'n'bass curiosity, not a hip-hop album with a few adventurous double-speed breakbeats, but a full-length, thoroughgoing drum'n'bass album that was both consistently true to the standard conventions of the form and also worth listening to all the way through? Chances are that it's been a while, and if so, then this "new" album from Luke Vibert will come as both a welcome return to some old-school sounds and a breath of genuinely fresh air. Working under the name Plug, Vibert actually recorded these tracks back in 1996 (hence their old-school flavor); however, they were considered quite avant-garde at the time (hence their freshness) and were never released until he brought them in to the offices of the Ninja Tune label in 2011. There's no question that these are products of the mid-'90s: some of the samples (for example, the breaks on which "Flight 78" is based) will sound familiar, as will many of the production tricks and techniques used to manipulate them -- in 1996 drum'n'bass was still in its adolescence. But already Vibert is bringing in new ideas and pushing boundaries: his use of sitar on "A Quick Plug for a New Slot" anticipates Asian jungle experiments that were just beginning to get geared up at the time; "Mind Bending" is an affectionate and witty send-up of the acid house scene that was just starting to decline; "Feeling So Special" incorporates multiple layers of rich sound and a battery of jungle breakbeats that manages simultaneously to be dense and light. Every track on this album is excellent in its own way, but perhaps the best is "Yes Man," with its graceful descending bassline, elegantly skittering beat, and artful juxtaposition of vocal samples and dollops of bloopy synth. It's a crime that we had to wait 16 years for these tracks to see the light of day.

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