Luke Vibert doesn’t like to stay bored for very long. As one of the many English compatriots (like Squarepusher and Aphex Twin) who rewrote the rules of electronic music in the early to mid-‘90s, Vibert records relentlessly. Supposedly, he creates a track a day for weeks at a time and is always adding names to his ever-growing roster of aliases and side-projects. His drive and curiosity has led him to create eardrum-drilling drum ‘n’ bass sides as Plug, meandering funked-up instrumental hip-hop as Wagon Christ, and songs covering many of the areas in-between, with releases on just about every big label in England. With his varied tastes and polished production skills, it seems only fitting that he eventually come around and revisit the acid-techno roots that helped inspire him to begin recording his own material so many years ago.
At first glance the title of Vibert’s latest, YosepH, may appear to be a reference to booty-shaking, get-your-freak-on funk, but that’s not the whole story. Rather, the prominent PH is a chemistry reference to acids, a nod to the jacked-up, tweaked sounds Vibert conjures up from his laboratory of music machines. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t throw in some Wagon Christ-style backbeats in this compilation of acid-drenched, analog-built tracks. These songs aren’t afraid to swagger. Vibert’s just having more fun twiddling the knobs this time around, creating beats with a bedspring bounce and warm tones that bubble up like champagne. It’s a fitting tribute to the continued influence Roland’s squelching synthesizers exert on electronic music.
The acid is so heavy on every track, the liner notes to the album might as well be made of blotter paper. The synth line near the beginning of “Freak Time Baby” struts self-confidently throughout the track, sending ripples through listener’s ears. “Synthax” starts with a tense and neurotic feeling at the beginning before calming down and settling into steady beats, bright tones and a twisted, moaning sample. The effervescent video game effects and relaxed beat of “I Love Acid” are excellent, and the phased vocals sum things up nicely: “It’s a 303 romance”. These declarations of affection for acid are whispered seductively throughout the track like a lover’s sweet nothings. Later on, “Stan D’infamy” showcases excellent production, with sparkling, dissonant chords and echoing, staccato beats always building and changing direction. Hearing the acid lines trickle up your ears is the aural equivalent of rubbing your toes into a sandy beach.
Though much of Vibert’s work on YosepH runs at a steady, even pace, more than a few tracks have the ability to add a little bounce to the evening. The aptly titled “Acidisco” contains a hip-hop pulse, dark undertones, and some high register strings. It’s the most direct reminder on this album of Vibert’s prevalent and lasting hip-hop influences. The handclap chorus and sandpaper scratches of “Countdown” provide a catalyst for anybody with designs on the dance floor. It’s also one of the tracks with an appropriate sci-fi sample and/or vocorder piece. These tracks showcase the most impressive part of this album; the variety of styles and tones that Vibert manages to cram into an acid concept album. Though the sound palette remains the same for almost all of the tracks, except for the orchestral, abstract “Ambalek”, Vibert doesn’t run out of creative combinations for his music. It’s a testament to this electronic jack-of-all-trades. Who else could release this album after dropping jungle tracks on Rephlex records under the guise of Amen Andrews?
This album is also Vibert’s first on the venerable Warp label, a surprising fact considering that his name’s been associated with the heavy-hitters on that label since its inception. However, despite the album’s excellent production values, it doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table. Anybody releasing an album of this nature will inevitably garner comparisons to Aphex Twin, and nobody, not even Vibert, can create acid tracks with more insane genius. This style of recordings has been done on Warp many times before; were the album to have come out a decade ago, it would have made quite an impact alongside other Warp releases.
Comparisons and timing aside, that shouldn’t stop anybody from enjoying the excellent music Vibert has created. Sure, acid tracks aren’t anything new, and despite the album’s creativity and production excellence, it may not take the leap into greatness or the critics’ year-end lists. But there is no denying that this album is a fun, original piece of work. Vibert’s taken the laid-back, smoke-it-up sensibilities of his Wagon Christ material and spiked it with some deliciously dirty acid samples and his famous wry sense of humor. It’s a winning formula, for sure. Nobody as prolific as Vibert can always make a definitive statement, but YosepH shows that Vibert continues to make solid music that is worth nodding your head to.