Release Date: Nov 3, 2017
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
Its soundtrack, of dull rings and cracked samples, conjures such powerful atmosphere that it dominates the accompanying film, catalysing the visual with grief. "Dowt the light" achieved this 5 years ago with a mere 34 seconds. So what can Stephen Wilkinson craft over 70 minutes? Phantom Brickworks is the product: 10 years of improvisational recordings that set aside Wilkinson's typical patchwork of genres to instead focus purely on texture, ambience and atmosphere.
As the past 12 years have made clear, Stephen James Wilkinson is a restless explorer of musical styles. There seem to be few genres that Wilkinson, better known as Bibio, hasn't turned over and scrutinized intently: odes to R&B and Boards of Canada; finger-picking folk-glitch; spliced soul and downtempo pastiche. The results have ranged from charming to competent to maddening.
Everywhere is haunted. Stare at any place for long enough and you will start seeing things - whether they are hiding in the dark shadows of bleak industrial cityscapes, or glinting in the reflection of freshwater streams. With field recordings from the countryside and desolate buildings around the England, Bibio's new album Phantom Brickworks presents the listener with less of a standard tracklist and more of a series of spaces.
Even though Bibio's Stephen Wilkinson has evoked many places and states of mind with his music, from Vignetting the Compost's rural charm to Ambivalence Avenue's citified eclecticism, there hasn't been anything quite like the hypnotic realm of Phantom Brickworks. On albums such as A Mineral Love, Wilkinson focused on his skills as a pop chameleon; this time, he brings the ambient atmospheres that provided the glue for his stylistic shifts to the fore, and in retrospect, the interludes that graced his previous albums feel like portals into this one. As Phantom Brickworks' title suggests, Wilkinson balances the spectral and the architectural on these carefully layered but seemingly weightless tracks, which sound like they're crafted from the still-reverberating echoes of the past.
The time for summer jams and budget flights is over. During these cold wet evenings, a more meditative selection is needed for your ear, and Bibio has the answer. 'Phantom Brickworks' sees the West-Midland's native ditch his more folktronica leanings in order to release his most ambient record yet. Having spent the best part of his career marrying wonked out guitars with found sounds and organic textures, this new collection sees the multi-instrumentalist going fully sparse in a way only hinted at before.