Release Date: Jun 23, 2009
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Indie, Electronic, Experimental
Bibio (aka Stephen Wilkinson) impressed early in 2009 with the lovely Vignetting the Compost, but he raised the bar just a few months later with his second full-length that year, Ambivalence Avenue. This is Bibio's Warp debut, and the label is a fitting home for his music: Vignetting's sweetly decaying sound bore the influence of Warp veterans Boards of Canada. However, Ambivalence Avenue's sound is markedly different than what came before it; its mix of breezy pop and creatively layered instrumental hip-hop sits comfortably between a couple of other Warp residents, Grizzly Bear and Flying Lotus.
Boards of Canada's 2005 album, The Campfire Headphase, included a song called "Chromakey Dreamcoat" that sounded like guitar loops playing on a wobbly phonograph. You have to wonder if this was a shout-out to their li'l homey Bibio, who cut three records for Mush from the whole cloth of this idea. Like his idols, he filled his electro-acoustic music with antiquated cultural products and nature sounds-- things that are beautiful because we've less and less use for them.
I’m a newcomer to Bibio. A friend recommended Ambivalence Avenue to me so I apologise for the absence of comparison or comment with regard to his prior works. But in a way, that doesn’t seem to matter because this album works wonderfully as a special, self-contained collection of songs. Much has been made of the fact that the man behind Bibio, Stephen Wilkinson, initially scored a record deal upon the endorsement of Board Of Canada’s Marcus Eoin.
Stephen Wilkinson has had something of a charmed career thus far. Marcus Eoin, from his heroes Boards of Canada, was instrumental in getting him a record deal with Mush Records after hearing an early recording (which sampled heavily from Boards of Canada's Geogaddi). And now, after three lush records full of field recordings and samples for Mush, he's signed to Warp, releasing albums right alongside his idols.
Bibio shares the distinguished honor of being Boards of Canada’s favorite outfit. Boards of Canada also happens to be the favorite band of Bibio’s Stephen Wilkinson. There’s something detrimental within that exchange that nearly reeks of the narcissism inherent in Rivers Cuomo’s hiring of Ozma as an opening band because they sound just like Weezer.
Click here to get your copy of Bibio’s ‘Ambivalence Avenue’ from the Rough Trade shop.
It's a surprise to discover that Stephen Wilkinson's debut release for Warp is his fourth album as Bibio: Ambivalence Avenue sounds more like the work of a newcomer than a seasoned musician. It's not that the 12 tracks are unaccomplished - Wilkinson's attentiveness to detail and mood is assured. There is a gossamer beauty to Cry! Baby! and The Palm of Your Wave; the former is tweaked on a laptop, the latter softly strummed and sung, but both exude an ineffable, pleasurable sorrow.
You guys are OK with me judging a book by its cover, right? Sweet: let’s ponder the truly puzzling artwork that adorns the fifth Bibio album. Ambivalence Avenue’s artwork is so calculatedly bland as to be borderline offensive: a monochrome sketch of a city street, trees grasping at the sky, Victorian terraced housing, a recent-model Beetle parked on one side, a recent-model Mini on the other. Hell, I’d totally live there if I got a job with a non-depressing salary; I sure as shit wouldn’t make a record trumpeting the fact, though.
Self-taught producer and multi-instrumentalist Bibio (aka Stephen Wilkinson) has made quite a name for himself as a folk meets electronic craft-maker. A student of such 90s acts like Aphex Twin and especially, Boards of Canada; Wilkinson released his sunny day soundscapes earlier this year with Vignetting the Compost. And now, following in the footsteps of his biggest influences, he has joined the eclectic Warp label for his second and much better album of 2009, Ambivalence Avenue.