Released in 1996, Plug's Drum 'n' Bass for Papa might not have had the ubiquity of Goldie's Timeless or Reprazent's New Forms, but it had something many other drum & bass albums of the era were sorely lacking: a sense of humour. Which could well be why it was roundly ignored by a drum & bass scene who seemed able to stomach any number of over-egged double albums from the likes of Grooverider and 4 Hero, but couldn't countenance anyone who sounded like they were actually having a laugh. Particularly if said prankster was a man—Luke Vibert—otherwise known for producing oddball electronica.
Not that Plug was necessarily a joke. Vibert might have treated drum & bass with irreverence, but it wasn't an outright piss-take of the sort later plied by many in the breakcore scene. His breakbeats were as sophisticated as anything being put out on Full Cycle or Talking Loud. It's just that Vibert was underpinning kitsch loungecore and easy listening samples as opposed to the more de rigeur jazz or ragga influences.
Nowadays, though, Drum 'n' Bass for Papa doesn't feel as dulled by over-familiarity as other '90s drum & bass does today. So Back On Time—a collection of "lost" Plug tracks from 1995 to 1998 now being released on Vibert's current home Ninja Tune—feels less like opening a time capsule than a new box of conjuring tricks. One which could belong to, say, Daedelus as much as Vibert's professional magician grandfather whose photograph adorns the cover. On tracks like "No Reality," with its waltzing organ coiled around frenetic breaks, Plug was a clear precursor to the Californian beatsmith.
For the most part, Vibert's approach to drum & bass still sounds unique, although there are some signs that this was produced in the '90s if you're looking for them. The sitars of "A Quick Plug for a New Shot" were clearly borrowed from the Indian-influenced drum & bass scene that spawned Talvin Singh, there's a touch of Alex Reece in the jazzy drum programming of "Flight 78" and Vibert's disguise really slips on the tongue-in-cheek sampledelia of "Mind Bending," which could have fallen off the back of 1994's debut Wagon Christ LP Throbbing Pouch.
What absolutely none of it sounds like is anything someone like Andy C would ever play. The closest Plug ever comes to a "roller" is the track "Drum'n'Bass," but even then he careens all over the shop: the initial tear-out slowing into clipped half-step before skidding through time-stretched breakbeats. 15 years since Drum 'n' Bass for Papa, Plug might now claim to be Back On Time, but he still remains completely out of line.
Buy Plug - Back on Time at
Tracklist: Plug - Back on Time 01. Scar City
02. Feeling So Special
03. Come On My Skeleton
04. No Reality
05. A Quick Plug For A New Slot
06. Mind Bending
07. Back On Time
08. Yes Man
09. Drum N Bass
10. Flight 78