Proceedings kick off with ‘Scar City’, and ‘kick off’ is the right expression. The bass drum kicks in straight away and we are immediately back on familiar territory. The track is a stunning mix of sampladelic vocals and a melodic, metronomic bassline, all driven by an off-kilter yet highly infectious rhythm track. ‘A Quick Plug for a New Slot’ is equally impressive and could have easily sat anywhere on Drum ‘n’ Bass for Papa. Its beats are so propulsive and catchy that the whole thing just leaves you breathless with its energy and enthusiasm. Perhaps the album’s best track is the title track, which has the same monster bass and sprangy, time-stretched beats as the title track of Drum ‘n’ Bass for Papa. The album closes with another highlight, ‘Flight 78’, which has the same tight, ersatz-jazz feel as ‘Delicious’.
One of the most amazing things about Drum ‘n’ Bass for Papa was that no track was under 7 minutes long. The vocals on the brilliant early Plug EPs were goofy and the beats choppy, but Papa showed more attention to the development and flow of each track as it was built up steadily to a head-crunching climax and was then given a slow, long outro. That’s not the case on Back on Time - only two tracks exceed 7 minutes and a couple hover around the 3-minute mark. ‘Come on My Skeleton’ is a bit ravey while ‘No Reality’ and ‘Mind Bending’ would fit better on one of his Wagon Christ releases, but these are mere quibbles when faced with such killer tracks.
As with previous Plug releases, Vibert’s trademark humour is evident all over these tracks, but don’t be fooled - behind the apparent tomfoolery is a master producer, whose productions are tightly arranged, beautifully programmed and sequenced. Drum ‘n’ Bass for Papa was a showcase for Vibert’s extraordinary production skills and techniques. He is a master of making a track that, while seemingly cut’n’thrash and throwaway, moves you forward in unexpected, compelling and clever ways and the tracks on Back on Time are no exception and equally good. Luke Vibert might think that the output released under his Plug moniker ‘went slightly wrong’ but Back on Time shows how wrong he was. It brings him right back to the future and bang on track.
This essay appears in Vade Mecum.