Album Reviews

Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue

(Warp) UK release date: 22 June 2009

Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue Welcome to Ambivalence Avenue. It’s a British road this, one made up of 12 very individually constructed houses. Built to order, the avenue borders such streets as Diversity Alley and Variety Road.

It’s also the home of Bibio, the name behind which you’ll find Stephen Wilkinson. Bibio is an enterprise of unusual skill, with the ability to make music of such sharp contrasts between tracks you’d be forgiven you were listening to a compilation album. Wilkinson makes this happen as he moves between the extremes of pastoral folk and rather more cutting electronica, all with apparent ease, and covering much of the ground in between.

He does this by using a rich palette of sounds and rhythms, aided and abetted by field recordings where appropriate, which add a distinctive yet oddly elusive slant on his music. It’s easy to see from this why Warp signed him, as he fits their blueprint in so many ways – experimental, adept between different musical forms, hugely imaginative and yet, seemingly, happy to fight shy of acclaim.

At times it suggests Wilkinson is trying to curry favour, especially in the way he uses Afrobeat as explicitly as he does on Lovers Carvings. This could almost be an offcut from the Vampire Weekend album, but it somehow sounds so naturally produced there’s no way this is the music of a trend follower.

That’s made clear comparing and contrasting what’s round about it, as we run through the dreamy psychedelic folk of All The Flowers, the chopped up beats of Fire Ant or the blissfully easy Haikuesque, arriving finally at the downright scary concrete beats of the closing Dwrcan, with its darkly coloured reminiscences of labelmate Chris Clark at his most coruscating.

What it doesn’t do, thankfully, is deprive Bibio/Wilkinson of a musical personality. For his sense of structure and emotional give and take is acute, so that we move from loud to quiet, from slow to quite fast, from acoustic to electronic, with an ease that makes perfect sense.

So there it is; a highly talented producer who’s been going for a little while, but who, with a nod and a wave to Warp, is on the verge of breaking through to a newly grateful and eager audience.

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More on Bibio
Bibio – Silver Wilkinson
Bibio – Mind Bokeh
Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue