||1 April 2011
||Stephen James Wilkinson
Having released five albums in the last couple of years (including one remix album), Warp Records’ Stephen Wilkinson may be perceived to be at his musical/creative peak. Even more impressive than his significant musical output however, is his utilisation of different genres that progresses with each release. From the heavily Boards of Canada inspired Vignetting the Compost with its beautifully aged, cassette-like quality folk strumming , to 2009’s much lauded Ambivalence Avenue with its profound discovery of the happy medium between the above and a much-welcomed electronic dimension.
With Mind Bokeh (pronounced Bouquet apparently), Bibio continues this trend to a certain degree and on sticking to his previously tried and tested formula, mostly gets it right particularly with the opening track 'Excuses'. 'Paranoid Android' like in structure with three distinct parts consisting of a slowly building solemn filtered opening, fuzzy beat accompanied middle and all out dance floor finish. The track displays an increase in production values in addition to a more vocal reliant LP in contrast to Ambivalence Avenue. The result of a newly found sense of confidence perhaps?
The pace is considerably slowed down with the chilled out lazy beats that accompany 'Pretentious'. Its twisted string opening forms a prevalent backdrop throughout the track with cutting synths, a faint guitar twang, and decent (George Michael like) vocals throughout. The outro is particularly reminiscent of Bibio’s previous Mush Records’ related releases, a great tune to unwind to.
It’s back to basics with 'Anything New', a joyous dance floor friendly, four minutes of typical Bibio fare. His talent as a producer is unshakeable and is very much represented by this track with several components ranging from the pounding synths, delicate claps and clicks to the rich brass overture all skilfully meshed to blend into a very retro and consequently very Bibio sounding track. A good thing.
However, the following three tracks are well below previous attempts. 'Wake Up!', with its swirling sitar sounding backdrop proves for an interesting soundscape but is utterly thwarted by Wilkinson’s vocal constraints, which only serves to divert attention from what probably would have been best left as an instrumental. Following this is 'Light Sleep', a funk soaked yet quite minimal, ‘70s cop show like tune. Although not necessarily a bad track, its repetitive strum makes for tedious listening and underwhelms the beautiful synth sounds that accompany. 'Take Off Your Shirt' is a bizarre addition to the album. Reliant on the electric guitar more than any other Bibio track, its hollow sound fails to grab attention although lyrically, it’s very sweet and probably suitable for the more mainstream listeners but nowhere near his best.
'Artists Valley' and 'K is for Kelson' get things back on steady ground. The first is very much Ambivalence Avenue territory with its reverb heavy vocals, distorted blips and beeps and a more electronic rhythm focused approach. The second half of this song mutates into an ethereal intertwining of off kilter sounds but is balanced effortlessly resulting in a delicate haunting resonance. 'K is for Kelson' is probably the most fun to be had with Mind Bokeh. While repetitive in sequences, it’s so light and good natured it only serves to heighten the joyous character of the track.
Following the brief title track interlude with its atmospheric layering of meditative sounds comes 'More Excuses', a nice tune with a constant beat, well delivered vocals and although nothing spectacular, the humorous reference to Bibio’s previous release is a nice touch. Next comes the elegant 'Feminine Eye', a brief but beautiful jaunty tune with a simple bassline, chimes throughout and another brass introduction making for a potential track favourite.
'St. Christopher' is a fantastic finish to the album. Although seemingly quite minimalistic, it is in fact probably the densest track on the album with what feels like three or songs compiled into one. As ever, this is well controlled by Bibio, it feels completely linear and natural yet again highlighting his honed producing skills.
Overall although not a huge leap forward, Mind Bokeh is an evolution of sorts with plenty to suit alternative listeners and makes the prospect of what comes next very interesting indeed.
- Conor Hynds