Music News

Luke Vibert

If current trends are any indication, we're going to be hearing a lot about acid in the coming months. Not the chemical that bound Haight to Ashbury to create 1967's Summer of Love, but the catalyst behind the other so-called Summer of Love, in 1988, when thousands of British teenagers went raving to a strange new mutation in Chicago house music. With other retro fads already wearing thin, acid, or acid house, is suddenly grist for the retro mill, its dirty primitivism a welcome antidote to overproduced dance music (and a compelling complement to roughhewn garage rock and electro). Luke Vibert's eighth album, a romp through filthy bass frequencies and distorted breaks, is a celebration of acid's visceral thrills -- and a tribute to its staying power.

Acid house ostensibly refers not to psychoactive substances, but derives from a slang term for stealing. The 1987 hit "Acid Trax," by Chicago's Phuture, gave the genre its name. "Acid Trax" updated early house music's mechanical rhythm patterns with the squelchy, farty sounds of the Roland TB-303 bass synthesizer, and the sound proved so addictive that it spawned an entire genre.

No doubt the term "acid" caught on in part because the music sounded like indigestion on the dance floor. Vibert's take on the music is no less woozy. Vibert has always been something of an overachieving chameleon, testing the limits of drum 'n' bass, instrumental hip-hop, and other styles under the aliases Wagon Christ and Plug. Here, he throws himself into his new task with gusto, wringing hilariously diarrheic sounds out of his synths and vocoders and wedding cartoony bass lines to jaunty, strutting drum machine work. Bass arpeggios bounce like Superballs in a tight corner, and whooshing filters, soggy with white noise, sweep back and forth across lounge-jazz chords.

This isn't just kitsch, though: When Vibert sings "I love acid" through a gritty vocoder and atop a sweetly swinging rhythm made just for slow dancing, he manages to make his retro affections sound totally sincere. For Vibert, whose compilations of '60s lo-fi groove gems are a testament to the throwaway tunes' goofball charms, fun is just as important as funk. YosepH's chirps, squiggles and teasing melodies offer a reminder that it wasn't just the drugs that put such fat smiles on ravers' faces.

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Philip Sherburne