The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Luke Vibert
Machine Funk Kate French-Morris , February 27th, 2023 09:39

Stalwart electronic producer delivers a love letter to acid

“Open your ears, close your eyes.” So instructs the third track on Machine Funk, the latest offering from electronic music giant Luke Vibert. It’s good advice for an album that maintains an almost scholarly fixation on one particular sub-genre: acid. Vibert isn’t always so single-minded. Since the early 1990s he’s run the gamut of electronic sub-genres, aliases, and major and minor labels, across a prolific output of almost 40 albums and a shedload more EPs, singles, and remixes – all while remaining fiercely Vibert at the core.

But Machine Funk, released on Belgian label De:tuned, doesn’t contain his usual eclectic bounty of styles and samples. Instead it’s a manual for all things acid, reminiscent of 2014’s Ridmik or last year’s Grit, but with a little more warmth and humour. Vibert zeros in on the beloved squelch of the Roland TB-303, following the whims of the silver box and revelling in all its possibilities.

The Kraftwerkian vocal repeats of “the future” on Machine Funk’s opening title track could easily be a tongue-in-cheek dismissal of any sense of nostalgia, for the album is no indulgent hark back to the early days of the genre. Nor is it some drastic re-contextualisation. Rather, Machine Funk is a celebration of a master and his instrument. Few musicians command the 303 the way Vibert can: with such precise control, yet punchy too, deploying subtle teases in rhythm and beat at just the right moments, and always sustaining that acid drip at the back of the throat.

These are eleven measured compositions, each possessing an air of refinement yet never taking themselves too seriously. After all, the delightful wobble of the 303 lends itself well to playfulness – also reflected in the track titles, from ‘Nonce Tarter’ and ‘Lucon Acid’ to the mishmash of ‘Juxtafication’ and ‘Justiposition’. Vibert’s musical rigour doesn’t stop him from dabbling in a degree of fun and eccentricity, heard throughout on tracks like ‘Moderneers Modernize’, ‘Hitler Skelter’, and ‘Major Miner’. ‘Juxtafication’ even contains a synth line that could almost be the theme music of a daytime TV chat show.

If Machine Funk ever seems too cold, too hollow, this only serves to give its warmer moments more force. Standout track ‘Nonce Tarter’ emerges from early, Neptune’s Lair-era Drexciyan depths into the unexpected, heady joy of Italo disco. It’s this kind of smart pacing that ultimately powers Machine Funk. Relentless and particular, but never overdone, this is disco Drexciya at its finest – and it’s the sound of someone presiding at the altar of the 303, calling all fellow worshippers to open their ears and close their eyes.