Plug's Back on Time is a refreshing visit to the graveyard that is drum'n'bass. But this work isn't new; it’s a collection of "lost" recordings that had just been rediscovered.
Luke Vibert is a multi-aliased, multi-genred British electronic music producer. He began creating music and using his monikers in the '90s, starting with Wagon Christ and later with The Ace of Clubs, Space Hand Luke, and Plug. Vibert used the Plug name specifically to release drum'n'bass music. His 1996 album, Drum'n'Bass for Papa was well-received, but it had a bit more personality, more effervescence, to it than some of the other electronic producers of the era and may have been less club-worthy as a result. Essentially, all the effort Vibert put into his Plug moniker was just over the course of a few years -- this new music isn't actually new. He issued a few previously unreleased tracks in 2006 on the Here it Comes EP, but it wasn’t until sometime in early 2011 that Vibert came across a larger stash of old DAT tapes that contained the material for the ten unreleased tracks on his new Back on Time album.
Listening to Back on Time is a throwback to the peak drum'n'bass era -- this album is chock-full of authentic '90s flavor. As a relic, it shows how far the electronic music genre has come in 15 years or so. Vibert's current home, Ninja Tune, made the smart decision to release this collection despite the trends in electronic music; trip hop, jungle, and D'n'B have been superseded by more hardcore sounds like dubstep or variations subjected to the indielectronic designation. But the levity Plug brings to the genre helps maintain the freshness of the sound.
"No Reality" is a prime example of Plug's humorous mind and distorted vision, beginning with some sampled voices hinting at the mania to come. It turns into a dramatic cinematic piece, the timpanis reflecting an odyssey to space before moving into a breakbeat that could have been found on a DJ Shadow track. In the middle, the voices announce "There's no reality here" then distort and twist as if they are being injected with helium. By the end, the sonic palette reduces to a couple of voices; one of them says again there's no reality while the other one curses him out but gets bleeped by robotic censors. "Flight 78" is another strange journey, with the free sounds of a space whale enjoying its release into zero G's and a cartoonish slipping-on-a-banana-peel sound. The breaks remain mellow, and a muted "yeah" cheer reminds the listener this is a journey of pleasure.
The shortest track on the album, "Come on My Skeleton" is a bizarre Halloween / Holiday Season in the desert hybrid. The ringing bells develop into an uptempo breakbeat while ethereal wails whisk through Middle Eastern strings. It ends with a man (His voice is similar to one The Avalanches have sampled) nonchalantly saying matter of factly, "You might also become aware of your anus, or genitalia". These curveballs that Vibert throws into the mix are oddities attached to excellent tunes and characteristic of the Plug sound. A D'n'B sound that is made fresh once again, if even for a brief moment.