Plug: Back On Time

plug, back on timePlug: Back On Time
In 1993, Luke Vibert released the album, Phat Lab Nightmare as Wagon Christ. The album got critical recognition for being noodly, experimental and ambient but it was not until he released his 1996 album, Drum and Bass for Papa that he expanded his horizons. That album was released under the monicker of “Plug.” It remained Plug’s only full length album until the recently released, Back On Time. As the story goes: last year, Vibert found long-lost DATs from the mid-90s and delivered them to Ninja Tune Records. Those DAT tapes are what is compiled on Back On Time.
While the DAT tapes might date back to the 1995-1998, drum and bass music is no where near where it was during that time period. Since that time, drum and bass was declared a dead genre; even the face of the genre, Goldie has not had a charting album since 1998. Nowadays, your best chance to hear drum and bass is as background music on Top Gear. So sitting down to listen to a drum and bass album feels odd to begin with.
Back On Time truly shows why drum and bass died out. Unless you have a particularly discerning ear for the genre, the first seven songs appear to have the exact same drum programming. With no vocals, the only thing separating one song another other is a smattering of sampled dialog and a sparse amount of musical elements. “A Quick Plug for a New Slot” distinguishes itself with a noodling sitar line which gives the track that exotic appeal. “Come On My Skeleton” separates itself from the competition with a serious sublow bass line that sounds like a predecessor to Wiley‘s eskibeat.
Where the album really gets interesting is around “Yes Man.” While the track has the dubious distinction of sampling an incredibly annoying moaning sound and also sampling a middle eastern man saying “yes man,” it beat marks the first non-cookie cutter sounding drum and bass beat. The tempo is on the lower side of the DnB spectrum while creating the album’s most complex snare drum line. This experimentalism continues on “Drum N Bass” which is actually the least DnB sounding track on the album. The track essentially sounds like a drum and bass track being chopped n screwed with bass lines stretched to distortion over beats slow enough that it no longer falls into the constraints of the genre.
Besides those two detours, Back On Time stays on message as a “traditional” drum and bass album. For fans of the genre, perhaps Plug’s lost album will thrill and unlock their imagination but for the occasional listener, it offers no more than Top Gear background music with slightly more personality.
Rating: 7.3/10
MP3: Plug “A Quick Plug For a New Slot”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! Vinyl