Ever since Luke Vibert moved into his new London apartment, a strange array of sounds has emanated from his bedroom: A chorus of angels sigh with eerie uniformity. An unidentifiable woodwind pipes catchy tunes worthy of Sesame Street. Sine waves surf like saucers over the ridge. And then there’s the endless stream of drum patterns: lockstep grooves thumping with inhuman precision, the sauntering cadences of American hip-hop, the ballistic Ping-Pong signature of “jungle” music. Despite which activity, Vibert reports no complaints from his new neighbors. Perhaps they think the 22-year-old merely is doing what 22-year-olds do: playing records at all hours. In fact he is doing what many 22-year-olds do these days, but he isn’t playing records. He is making them.
“There’s not much of it,” Vibert says on the phone, surveying the equipment that allows his bedroom to double as a recording studio. “It’s a very tiny work space, just in my corner. On my left I’ve got my old Atari and a sampler and a mixing desk, and then on my right there’s just one keyboard and the effects unit. And that’s it.”
Then again, maybe Londoners have simply gotten used to Vibert and his generation of bedroom Beethovens. There certainly are enough of them come 1996, these Aphex Twins and u-ziqs and Mouses on Mars, holed up in their PJs, assembling fabulist pastiches of electronic music with minimal resources. “Aphex has just got hundreds and hundreds of things in a lush little bedroom setup,” says Vibert of ambient music’s biggest star (and fellow Cornwall native). “Most of the others are quite small, like mine.”
The room’s dimensions have not constrained Vibert’s prolific nature. By his own estimation, he releases one in three of the tracks he assembles bedside. And that’s been enough material for a steady stream of albums, singles and work-for-hire remixes not only under his own name but as Wagon Christ and Plug. Rapid-fire 12″s keep his name afloat in ambient and jungle circles, but limited pressings (as few as 500 copies a title) lend them the substance of rumors. By the time word has circulated on Internet newsgroups, they’re sold out.
Fortunately for his U.S. fans, Vibert’s best work is also his most readily available: Throbbing Pouch (Rising High/Moonshine), a far-ranging instrumental expanse of sci-fi backdrops, ascetic mantras and insinuated funk. Call it information-age bachelor pad music, so thick and varied is the mix, including a solid debt to U.S. hip-hop that distinguishes Vibert from much of his competition. (“I’m mainly into East Coast stuff,” he says, “like Tribe Called Quest, DJ Premier, Group Home.”) He’s nicked a few samples from stateside rappers, but aside from royalties, what Throbbing Pouch most owes to hip-hop is the inspiration for his inventive use of sampled records.
“I had a really dodgy old record of my mom’s, actually,” he says, “that I stole from her a few years: Yves Montand, with this lush string intro. And I found it on CD up here, so I did this bit when it was really crackly and horrible and also sampled this lush CD, so it suddenly cut to the same sound but with no crackles.”
Perhaps Vibert’s neighbors aren’t far off the mark. He is playing records in his bedroom, or at least playing with them. They sit in crates by his computer, like so much clay waiting for the potter.
Originally published Pulse! magazine, April 1996.