Ask people to name important locations for electronic music and you’ll likely get the usual suspects: Chicago, Detroit, London. If someone brings up Cornwall, then you can be sure they’re a geek. It isn’t an obvious choice but it’s from this small corner of the English south west that emerged three of the most singular voices in the recent history of electronic music: Aphex Twin, Mark Pritchard, and Luke Vibert.
All three are relevant to the story I’m telling in different ways. In the case of Luke Vibert, it’s his early work on Ninja Tune and Mo’Wax that makes him an reference point for many when thinking about instrumental hip-hop and beats. I spoke to Vibert in 2013 for the book, a rare interview in which he revealed how his early interest in hip-hop ultimately led him to electronic music and a career spent creating music grounded in samples.
Despite the changes since he first began releasing music over 20 years ago, Vibert has changed little. He still works with the same gear, in the same fashion, and with the same sense that it all shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
The Vibert sound was born in that decision. While he has remained attached to certain genres throughout his career — jungle, acid, instrumental hip-hop — sampling remains the binding element, a practice that is, at its core, genre agnostic. Vibert infuses his music with a sampledelia that plays out like a patchwork of recorded music history, oscillating between smooth jazz, vintage electronic bleeps, and sped-up breakbeats. His reliance on sampling was also practical, being suited to making music without vocalists. “Listening to so much hip-hop I think I found it hard at first with the instrumental stuff,” he said. “I’d pack it full of shit. Now I can do a bit less. There’s only 20 samples in tracks as opposed to 100 or something.”