Release Date: May 14, 2013
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Post-Rock, Electro-Acoustic
Review Summary: Summery.The best time of my life was a summer in my teens. The family house was for a few weeks just my dog and I and the only thing to worry about was getting to work and getting a tan. The heat was a furnace where the colors seemed at once sharper and more muted, saturated brilliantly by the humidity yet deadened in that thick, stillborn haze.
Anyone anxiously awaiting the upcoming Boards Of Canada album, and who imagines the duo to be utterly peerless, would do well to investigate Bibio. Stephen Wilkinson's music has about it the same Polaroid blur as BoC's, indistinctly reminiscent of past halcyon days, distorted and recoloured by memory. Silver Wilkinson is his first album since 2011's Mind Bokeh.
Bibio broke big with dazzlingly eclectic albums like Ambivalence Avenue and Mind Bokeh, which showed Stephen Wilkinson could bring a sharper edge and more dimensions to his music. However, the breezy folktronica of his earlier work had a lot to offer as well, and the way he incorporates it into Silver Wilkinson never feels like a retreat. Bringing a more streamlined approach to the unabashedly pretty sounds he explored on albums like Vignetting the Compost, the results aren't quite as bucolic as before; instead, the dainty acoustic guitars and hazy analog synths on "The First Daffodils" sound more like memories of being outside than actually communing with nature.
There are certain sounds that hit you in a big way. The music itself isn’t big, but it somehow feels large-scale and modest at the same time. Oversized sounds are prevalent these days; sometimes, we just need a little nudge. For enigmatic producer Bibio, however, his method has been anything but subtle.
There is a drop in the pond, the ripples rolling out ceaselessly. Was it the wind or the pluck of a guitar? These are the kinds of obtuse images that decorate Silver Wilkinson, the elusive and ambient record from experimental British producer Bibio (real name: Stephen Wilkinson). Rather than his electro roots, the record is bubbling brooks and acoustic guitars.
Bibio's latest release on Warp finds the English producer taking a rawer approach, with more live instrumentation than previous albums. Silver Wilkinson runs with a quiet eclecticism; it's nights around a campfire, flip-flopped feet pushing through dew-sodden grass, a blanket stretched out in a park, your head in someone's lap. Opening track "The First Daffodils," with its static crackle, is reminiscent of morning sunlight seeping through shutters, catching particles that twirl blithely mid-air.
Over the last few years Stephen Wilkinson has, under the Bibio guise, established himself as an artist capable of releasing albums that confidently cross musical borders, defy easy categorisation and subsume styles in a way rarely bettered by others. His last offering, 2011’s Mind Bokeh, was a superb synthesis of warped electronics, incisive hip-hop beats, inventively deployed guitars and funk/soul assimilations that positioned him almost like a multi-instrumentalist, Black Country Flying Lotus. On seventh album Silver Wilkinson however, his creative energies are directed in different, unanticipated directions that can initially be a little confounding.
The big criticism that’s always faced Bibio is that he’s a one-trick pony, an artist with a lot of influences but little personality, a bookish student of navel-gazing music without much in the way of umph. In addressing that perception he scored serious acclaim with Ambivalence Avenue, an album that added a few strings to his bow while still retaining a familiar core. But then in 2011, with the curtain lifted and in the spotlight – a lot of people googled ‘kindle ad song’, after all – he managed to prove his naysayers right for entirely different reasons with the follow-up, the messy and too-far-stretched Mind Bokeh.
There’s a new Boards of Canada album coming out in a few weeks and Stephen Wilkinson is likely as excited as you are; after all, he's never turned down the chance to express his intense fandom of the band. Even better news for him is that his seventh album as Bibio, Silver Wilkinson, will not be rendered redundant by Tomorrow’s Harvest. That wasn’t the case last time BoC released new material; the two would namedrop each other in interviews, and when The Campfire Headphase finally allowed six-strings into the mix, they were modeled after the kind of gelatinous, wobbly guitars that defined Bibio’s early work on Mush.
The creative trajectory of England’s Stephen Wilkinson, better known by his stage name Bibio, is a deceptively familiar one: the upstart producer balances a taste for experimentation and pop on his way towards increasing eclecticism. His early full-lengths, Fi in 2005 and Hand-Cranked a year later, gave acoustic textures and found sound an electronic pulse. Vignetting the Compost in 2009 edged into more dynamic and structured territory while retaining an affinity for atmospheric naturalism.
The last we heard from British producer Stephen Wilkinson, he was splicing together various funk-laced genres on Mind Bokeh, his excellent sixth album as Bibio. Wilkinson's music has always defied classification, but Mind Bokeh was a literal haze of influences and styles that, judging from the sentimental care with which they were handled, were ripped straight from whatever was playing on the radio during the salient moments of Wilkinson's childhood. Silver Wilkinson maintains the affectionate posture toward everything retro, but brings Bibio's aesthetic into clearer focus, sharpening the previous album's anything-goes blur down to two distinct categories: stuttering, chunked-out funk jams and dreamy psych-folk ballads.
Bibio’s Stephen Wilkinson has long been a producer to eschewed the mundane and conventional. For him, electronic music offers him infinite possibilities to indulge in his myriad flights of musical fancy. ‘Silver Wilkinson’ is Bibio’s seventh studio album and it carries on the themes of oblique and idiosyncratic sounds combined with an almost restless nature.
We’re past the point where pop steeped in intentional fuzz or frayed to fashionable tatters feels transportive. After all, there’s nothing more now than the freshly forgotten past, and that other N-word (nostalgia) has become a tricky filter used to impart art where it might otherwise be lacking. (Call it the Instagram effect.) Let this preface not implicate Bibio (a.k.a.