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Bibio Ambivalence Avenue Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Textbook examples of electronica

Keira Burgess 2009

Bibio's one-man creative force Stephen Wilkinson is a prolific tweaker of knobs and a former master of something called Sonic Arts. As you'd expect he loves musical curios, gadgets and an array of basic percussive instruments. He's also an avid collector of sounds. All fairly typical of your average bedroom producer of electronica, so one hopes that the material will confidently assert the originality that lead Boards of Canada to describe his work as ''the antidote to modern laptopia''.

Metaphorically, album number four Ambivalence Avenue is more the hair of the dog that bit you. The majority of the tracks pay heed to Wilkinson's stated natural undertones, but sitting uncomfortably among them are textbook examples of electronica so exactingly layered with sound that their overall effect is sadly formulaic.

Sugarette is one such track: an instrumental amalgam of noises bolted together to little effect. Fire Ant does manage to touch a nerve: but only because it features samples of screeching kids the likes of which you'd expect to find trying your patience on public transport. And if you've ever watched the animated television series Pingu, you might find something mildly amusing about a selection of the sounds used on Cry! Baby!

It's in his gentle, organic moments that Bibio comes into his own. Vulnerable Americana The Palm of Your Wave, and psychedelic title track Ambivalence Avenue show off production's true potential with the richness it adds to their natural warmth.

Abrasion embraces harmony, and Haikuesque (When She Laughs) blends dual rhythms so subtlety as to allow the listener to discover each in their own time. There is infinitely more skill in such understated construction than in the unrelenting audio smack in the face that is standard with the average sampler.

If only Bibio could reign back his enthusiasm for bleeps and blips, he might just prove to be that electronic antidote after all.

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