Ninja Tune – 2001 - 63 minutes
For the uninitiated Wagon Christ is one of the duo of pseudonyms for one of the U.K's most prolific, eclectic music makers. Most of the time we know and love him as Luke Vibert, when he's not masquerading under his drum 'n' bass moniker Plug. Vibert is the third corner in Cornwall's esoteric musical triangle along with those other proponents of the nom de plume, Richard D James (Aphex Twin) and Mike Paradinas (µ-zig). Of this trinity, Mr Wagon Christ, by virtue of the versatility, scope and quality of his compositions wins hands down. Many of the musical styles that inhabit the kaleidoscope of electronic music, come with the reputation of opaque inaccessibility, a badge that will not sit on the lapels of WC.
Last year I saw Luke Vibert – DJ supremo, electronic guru, expert knob-twiddler – play in Whelan's with BJ Cole, the renowned slide guitarist, who seemed the most unlikely of collaborators. Vibert admits that hip-hop is usually the only music he bothers to keep up to date with and much of it abounds here, but excursions into house, disco, drum 'n' bass, trip-hop and funky electronica demonstrate his huge talent for musical fusion. There is quite literally a piece of everything on this album, including a sackful of music samples displaying an orchestral scope of instruments. His vocal samples sound like science teachers and religious fanatics, self-help gurus and comedians.
On 'Bend Over' flute loops are spread thickly over chunky hip-hop beats and a young borstal boy intones the story a stretch in jail. 'Tomach' is an underwater dream sequence of sublime beats while Vibert unveils his older influences on the filtered drum 'n' bass of 'Natural Suction'. The title track 'Musipal' is an unbelievable infusion of hip-hop, harps and skat jazz whistles that sounds like something the Beastie Boys couldn't fit on 'Hello Nasty'. 'Receiver' surfs over waves of house vocals where hewn strings and brass chase vocal samples around in circles.
The album's sleevenotes speak of 'imaginary animals' but the Wagon Christ menagerie is a realistic, luminous space straining at the boundaries of sound. Vibert's mixing mastery, sampling slickness and wonderfully unique compositions are in a league of their own, the nearest comparison for distinctiveness going to Ninja Tune labelmates Coldcut.
Vibert continues to be an innovative pioneer in his field, surpassing his contemporaries, so comparison to present day players is incongruous. Music purists might sneeringly refer to this Vibert's style as 'copy-and-paste' music but for its imagination, scope and diversity this deserves to be touted as the electronic equivalent of 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band'.
Tracklisting – The Premise – Bend Over – Tomach – Thick Stew – Natural Suction – Musipal – It Is Always Now, All Of It Is Now – Receiver –Boney L – Cris Chana – Tomorrow Acid – Step to the Music - Perkission