Reviewed by Pop Matters
I typically end up starting off Luke Vibert reviews by talking about the ridiculous seven new albums and EPs he’s already put out just this year, under four different pseudonyms or whatever the specific year warrants. This time, I’ll spare you such an enumeration. Though Vibert seems to be maintaining the same prolific level of output as the last few years, his latest, Chicago, Detroit, Redruth is perhaps the most notable in a while. Whereas Vibert usually has a tendency to segregate the many genres in which he operates into different albums (different project names even, usually), here he foregoes aliases in favor of his own name and draws simultaneously from several areas of prior work.
Arguably, “Luke Vibert” could be considered a genre-specific moniker in itself: Vibert’s acid alias. In the past, he put out the more single-minded acid ventures YosepH and Lover’s Acid under his own name, and acid influences seem to continue as the most consistent and striking on Chicago, Detroit, Redruth. However, just as the title states, that’s not the whole picture. The acid comes via its Chicago origins, Detroit techno perhaps furnishes some of the steady beats propelling the disc, and Redruth, a tiny town in Vibert’s home of Cornwall, England, that has also been name-checked by Aphex Twin, may be the source of the slippery synth lines curling throughout the disc, more reminiscent of Vibert’s older work as Wagon Christ. It’s this combination that helps keep the album from becoming predictable for a little longer than some of his other recent efforts. Still, perhaps because of his relentless release schedule, Vibert can tend to be a little lazy on individual tracks, endlessly looping his breakbeats and samples, or slipping by with a minimum of compositional elements.
The standout tracks, even where they their sloppy edges show, are solid. Opener “Comfy-Cozy”, forgoing acid lines entirely, succeeds despite the attempts of a clumsily-timed ringing percussion sample to distract the listener and derail the song. Everything else is too perfect: the slow but continual buildup of layers, the eventual hard-stepping drum & bass line, the glitzy nightlife of neon and chrome conjured by the swanky jazz piano licks, rising synth lines, and choir. “Brain Rave” and “Radio Savalas” drift effortlessly between hard acid-lines and more future-funk keys, even as they occassionally seem overly sparse. “Clikilik”, a standout from the recent Sacred Symbols of Mu compilation, fares well here also, fittingly clicky trip-hop drums laying down a framework for shaky bass chords and a central, faintly dissonant synth melody that seems to bridge the gap between acid 303 and his trademark Wagon Christ synths.
Other tracks fare less well, as Vibert reuses his new hybrid-acid template on all too many songs without striking difference. All are competently handled and hold an ephemeral appeal, but tracks like closer “Swet” can move through interminable layer additions and subtractions, without ever really seeming to move. “Argument Fly”, perhaps the truest acid number of the disk sets up reasonably solid acid line, but then most fails to fully construct a song around it, or even to push his 303 to its fullest energy and potential. “God” falls into a familiar Vibert trap, letting overused samples do all the talking in place of actual melodic or rhythmic development; it grows tiresome after only a couple repeats.
Vibert is as talented as he is occasionally infuriating. Chicago, Detroit, Redruth is among his most varied works and provides frequent delights, but at the same time holds a pervasive sense of laziness, of “good enough”. Indeed, the album is good enough, but it could have been better than that with a little further care and development. The melding of acid lines with conventional melodies still has a lot of untapped potential, and Vibert explores some of it while only hinting at much broader swaths of compatibility. Perhaps he’s leaving directions to develop on the next album. And perhaps that’s the problem: with such a overwhelming release schedule, Vibert sometimes spreads his ideas a little thin. Chicago, Detroit, Redruth, in examining multiple production angles at once, takes steps towards allaying these concerns, but it’s just that: a step.
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