Tag Archives: Ninja Tune

A Fine Line between Wagon Christ and God

From Luke Vibert’s early productions on Rising High, Mo’ Wax and Ninja Tune through his reinvention in nearly every form imaginable since the early part of this decade, he has always remained resolutely idiosyncratic and recognisable while adapting himself to changing genres and technology. He’s also turned in some excellent DJ sets which display the same sense of quality and eclecticism.

Despite this reliability and novelty regeneration I seemed to loose track of him over the last few years, so he was one of the artists that I made an effort to catch up with. Setting the time machine back to August 2007 I found Chicago, Detroit, Redruth on Planet Mu and his collaboration with Jean Jaques Perrey, Moog Acid On Lo recordings. Both albums sounded interesting enough, but Vibert’s faster acidic side is a bit hit and miss for me. I picked up God from the former and Vision For the Future from the latter. Both albums as a whole were too acid-indulgent for me, which isn’t really a fair assessment of the whole, but I’ll stand by mu clip-based judgement that they aren’t his best work in their totalities. That said, God is exactly the kind of hip hop that only he can pull off, with lush choral samples over rudely distorted toms. It also has some of the best deitic samples aggregated in one place. Vision For the Future is reminiscent of his Lover’s Acid record or Kerrier District from a few years back. In that way it’s a useful sort of track for me, as I don’t buy a lot of house that sounds like this. Hell, not much house sounds like this. It’s just good with an unusual feel and mood to it.

Fast forward to last month and the release of his Rhythm album. From the first bar I was fondly reminded of Tally Ho! Indeed this album reminds me more of that release than anything he’s done since then, in that it’s mostly instrumental hip hop and it’s full of surprises (and ridiculously creative song names). When shopping I tried to dissect it unsuccessfully. While I could have probably lived with only two or three of the tracks, I really wanted the whole album, as it clearly deserves that monicker, despite its actuality as a repackaged collection of Japanese 12″ releases in an affordable release.

That said, one track stands out because it’s so unusual and good. A Fine line is another track using choral singing in hip hop to mad effect. I don’t know how it works, it just does, and it’s successful enough that it’s been swimming around in my head for a couple of weeks now.

The title track Rhythm didn’t leap out at me until I’d heard it a few times (probably because it takes a bit to get going). It’s all about the claps and reggae samples that come in about half way through. They’re huge. If anything I just wish this track was longer.

Concertina Turner, James Bond in a Jimmy Hat and Harmonica Sellers all have a classic funk feel to them, which will definitely appeal to fans of the classic Ninja Tune sound. Simultaneously it reminds me of DJ Premiere’s production on Moment of Truth. Same era(ish) I suppose.

But as I say it’s mostly just an enjoyable straight-through listening experience for the oddity of his orchestrations and left-field sample sources, which arrived right on time for me. I think this one has some shelf life in it.

To top this off, I’ve just noticed a second album in as many months called We Hear You on Planet Mu. I’ve not yet had a chance to check it but will endeavour to report back following the next batch of purchases.