It’s hard to forget those heady days of early rave, when wide-eyed enthusiasts gathered in fields on the South Downs, or in aircraft hangars in far north Norfolk. The music that soundtracked that rich period in UK dance music history still soundtracks our lives.
But now you're more likely to hear Grooverider or Brothers In Rhythm during a commercial break, or soundtracking a rose-tinted montage celebrating the history of ‘counter-culture’ on ITV. Fairly, some of you might think that rave music has been divorced from its original spirit.
Luke Vibert was there at the beginning and ‘UK Garave Vol. 1’ is meant to be celebration of that formative period in British underground culture. But instead, Vibert’s ode to the music that made him only separates rave from its original identity further.
If anyone knows what it was like at those early raves, where locations were only revealed last minute via a mobile phone hook up, it’s Vibert. The multi-talented producer has been pushing an idiosyncratic brand of rave breaks and gun-finger synths for 30 years now, on labels like Warp, Planet Mu and Ninja Tune.
Each release has charted a producer maturing with age, until now. ‘Luke Vibert Presents UK Garave Vol. 1’ is overtly and unashamedly nostalgic. Nostalgia alone can be pleasurable, but the way in which Vibert has deconstructed and reassembled rave tropes on this, his second album for Hypercolour, is dissatisfying at best.
As I said, Vibert was there — he produced much of the music that ‘…UK Garave Vol. 1’ is overtly aping. In 2015, his ‘Bizarster’ release on Planet Mu saw him in fine form producing raw, rolling tracks like ‘Ghetto Blast Ya’; tracks that sounded like instant classics when dropped in the club.
But ‘…UK Garave Vol. 1’ is a different beast. First, it suffers from an overabundance of ideas. Each track looks to fit in every conceivable element that could possibly be considered ‘rave’. ‘Feel The Melody’ literally takes four or five vocal snippets from classic tracks (like N-Joi’s ‘Anthem’) mashing them together in too little space.
The idea behind the LP is to revisit the classic sounds of Vibert’s younger years. But removed from the high tempos and raw production of the original music, the ten-track album falls flat.
There’s little to set one track apart from another. Only ‘Clap Sing’ breaks this mold, stripping away cluttering vocals to reveal a stark, well produced drum track. Rave was about adventure, but most of ‘…UK Garave Vol. 1’ sounds sanitised and safe. Each track is well produced, but this contributes to a general homogeny: Vibert has produced taken rave and reconstructed it from glossy, clean beats.
In one sense, Vibert is pillaging his own legacy, taking the sounds that make up his past and reassembling them according to what he thinks the future sounds like. The issue is that Vibert’s idea of the future is oddly outdated. On album opener, ‘The Future’, Vibert mistakes glitch, a genre that has been mined and abandoned by producers over the last decade, and marks it out as the sound of the future.
In aping the sounds that made early rave great — hardcore, breaks and hard house — Vibert has sucked the soul from the genre leaving just a smattering of style. If this is an ode to rave, then it is a hollow one.
Words: Alex Green
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