A wilfully eclectic pick’n’mix affair from a producer on fine form.
Paul Clarke 2011-03-30
It’s common practice in electronic music to record under myriad aliases; the likes of Aphex Twin, Carl Craig and Tom Middleton all boasting more disguises than the MI6 dressing-up box. The reasoning being less about making the trainspotters put the work in; more to prevent records being pigeonholed before they’ve even been taken out of the sleeve.
However, when it comes to confounding preconceptions Bibio has taken the opposite approach. For it’s in this single guise that Wolverhampton-born producer Stephen Wilkinson has recorded a series of albums which make most producer’s progression look as unpredictably maverick as Liam Gallagher going from Oasis to Beady Eye. From the instrumental folktronica of early albums like Hand Cranked through to the sunny synth-pop and digital soul of 2009’s Warp debut Ambivalence Avenue – which also showcased Wilkinson’s falsetto croon – Bibio’s only trademark is that you have absolutely no idea what his records will sound like before playing them.
So although Mind Bokeh can be expected to be a wilfully eclectic pick’n’mix affair, what he’s actually going to pull out the bag can still surprise. For if Bibio’s albums to date could be the output of five different bands, on his sixth LP that could be said of almost every track. Opener Excuses has an ambient intro subsequently ruptured by DJ Shadow-style beats and Wilkinson’s voice; More Excuses could be Metronomy jamming with J Dilla; and Light Seep proclaims his love for both Crosby, Stills and Nash and psychedelic synths.
It’s hardly coherent stuff – the jump between Artists’ Valley’s melancholy electronic coda and K Is for Kelson’s jubilant African highlife being particularly wide – but there’s rarely the sense that Bibio is simply taping disparate parts together; instead, he’s folding sounds in on themselves, like aural origami. That dexterity is particularly apparent on the closing Saint Christopher, where a lissom guitar is refracted through muted hi-hats and electronic glitches. It might be less hyperactive than much of the rest of Mind Bokeh, but still displays the same inventive imagination that Bibio has thankfully applied to dreaming up new musical permutations rather than pseudonyms.