Release Date: Apr 1, 2016
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Post-Rock
Stephen Wilkinson’s fifth Warp release is a spritely collection of balmy, surreal soundscapes in which he channels his fascination with nature, nostalgia and the type of strutting funk affiliated with brown nylon flares. His most intricate album to date, A Mineral Love is delicately constructed like tiny cells of a flower. A strange summer of love permeates the tipsy album opener Petals, and a light dose of bossa nova on C’est la Vie creates the sentiment of a soft sigh rather than a grand declaration, while quirks and oddities resound, such as the Ariel Pink-esque lo-fi lounge pop on the title track and the reimagined 70s kids’ show theme, Wren Tails.
Bibio's Stephen Wilkinson is no stranger to revisiting and updating the past on his albums, whether it's the history of music in general or just his own. On Silver Wilkinson, he returned to the folktronic idylls of the Vignetting the Compost era with a newfound purpose; on A Mineral Love, he dissects the fusion of 21st century electronic music and '70s and '80s R&B, funk, and pop that made Ambivalence Avenue so compelling. The warmth of the bubbling keyboards and easy grooves on songs like the summery "Town & Country" suggest that Wilkinson spent hours crate-digging for the perfect samples.
Stephen Wilkinson has probably read it all. He’s seen the reviews, the summaries, the summations of his craft, and invariably, he’s seen his music referred to as everything from “folktronica” to “laptop pop” to goodness know what else. Under his Bibio moniker, Wilkinson has recorded six full-length efforts, all built around synth patterns and acoustic guitars that were lensed through through the perspective of ‘70s and ‘80s American pop music.
Bibio may not be the biggest name on the Warp roster, but he certainly is one of the choice cuts in any assessment of the legendary label's line-up. A Mineral Love, the artist's third full-length installment, sees Bibio focus more on his own talent as a singer. It's a voice that matches the woozy West Coast aesthetic of his guitar lines, although even those sound less suited to their former stoned California nights and are now closer to '70s prime-time TV theme tunes.
Bibio has been doing the same thing for a long time—a little bit of everything. Stephen Wilkinson's restlessness over the last decade makes it hard to pin him down, but it also makes it easy to keep listening to the diverse pop pastiches that have developed out of his more uniform sound-collage origins. A Mineral Love might be just another turn of the kaleidoscope, but it grows on you, with a relaxed joyfulness that is refreshing after a spate of more laborious records.
It’s been six years since Bibio’s Stephen Wilkinson released Ambivalence Avenue, a musical anomaly that’s at once brilliant and damn near impossible to replicate. To the latter point, Wilkinson has avoided replicating the glitched out folk head-trip of that record in his three releases since. That decision has also caused much of his work since to feel largely disjointed or directionless.
The latest full-length from Stephen Wilkinson's Bibio moniker, A Mineral Love, is saturated in sounds from decades past, coming off as something of a sample album tinged with his own persona for listeners to revel in. A Mineral Love strays quite a bit from Bibio's warm electro-pop musings of albums prior, though, reaching to the past for sounds that don't quite fit. "Why So Serious" is a crystalline synth ballad plucked straight from the '80s, while "Feeling" opens with a cringe-worthy blast of bleating saxophone and wah pedal reminiscent of a '70s TV theme.
Our latest installment of Quick Takes may be up a little bit later than usual, but bear with us - with so many surprise releases, from Radiohead to James Blake to Drake, we've been just as overwhelmed as all of you trying to keep up. But that doesn't stop us from acknowledging some records that we ….
The musical polymath is a title oft flouted in modern age of bands, blogs and bandcamp, but is rarely truer than for the released work of Stephen Wilkinson. Few artists have such a far-reaching palette of sound, or are able to create albums so explorative and exceptional from it. Six prior records have seen Bibio make us cry with “You Won’t Remember”, make us dance on “Jealous of the Roses”, and make us buy Amazon products with “Lovers’ Carvings”.