Wednesday, December 23, 1998

Instrumental Hip-Hop

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 1998 at 12:00 AM

UK knob-twiddler Luke Vibert is one of those DJ Age producers who annoyingly refuses to stick to just one name or sound. As Plug, he plundered drum 'n' bass with such aplomb that Trent Reznor handpicked him to open up a Nine Inch Nails tour. Now getting back to the dry English wit and the thankfully less dry instrumental hip hop of his Wagon Christ persona, the Vibe man tries to inject a playfulness into his midtempo beat collaging. Trouble is he comes off like a cross between DJ Spooky and Rich Little — it's music that's supposed to be about music and even making fun of it a little.

So we get mid-tempo romps with unlikely sound sources — children's records, cut-up phone sex tapes — and a tongue-in-cheek jazz sensibility. While not terrible, its random, run-on beat ideas are heavy on twinkles and atmo-jazz, but light on any bumpin' electricity. "Crazy Disco Party" is a misnomer; it sounds more like Deee-Lite trying to make an easy-listening track, full of sci-noises, twinkling piano and swoopy bass. The title track mixes live drum samples, more weird noises and more swooping sonic oddities for an extraterrestrial bit of digi-funk. In the end, Vibert's eccentricities don't make for a better record, just a more amusing one.

What could have been Aphex Twin flashing a demonic grin is just the tepid beat reverence of DJ Shadow lightening up to a smirk.

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