If you don’t already know, Bibio is a man named Stephen Wilkinson who makes things go boom-bap. This wasn’t always the case. His earlier work on Mush Records utilised looped guitar and analogue tape recordings to produce collections of ambient melodies and moods (see albums Fi, Hand Cranked and Vignetting the Compost for more info), a style that Wilkinson dubbed ‘saturated folk’.
A recent move to Warp Records (a place where almost everything goes boom-bap, albeit often in a slightly wonky way) changed all of that. Wilkinson’s first effort for the label, 2009’s Ambivalence Avenue, is a thrilling collection of intriguing beat-driven music that sometimes sounds like it’s about to fall over but never quite does. That was probably a Warp influence too.
Mind Bokeh is a natural follow up, continuing where Ambivalence Avenue left off. Indeed, at points it heavily references its predecessor. ‘Light Sleep’ rethinks the wah- wah funk of ‘Jealous of Roses’, while ‘More Excuses’ contains lyrical echoes of ‘All the Flowers’. The cut-up beats of ‘Fire Ant’ make a reappearance on ‘Anything New’, and the sepia-toned guitar work of previous albums is back on ‘Artist’s Valley’.
This is not to say that ‘Mind Bokeh’ contains nothing fresh Bibio for fans. Lengthy opener ‘Excuses’ has a steadily rising arrangement: a full 2’12 of crackling keys passes by before Wilkinson’s own voice drops over a jagged beat. ‘Pretentious’ is a change of mood; a psychotically slow, stumbling pulse built from out-of-tune piano strings and chord stabs, while ‘Take off Your Shirt’ finds the producer in full-on driving rock mode, complete with pounding cowbell and pop-punk guitar riffs. It’s a refreshing mid-album change of pace, one executed in Wilkinson’s own indomitable way.
Closer ‘Saint Christopher’ ends the album on a high; an insistent rhythm allowing more delicate guitar work to ebb and flow to a triumphant conclusion, and demonstrating the producer’s command over the more melodic end of Warp’s output. It’s Wilkinson’s seamless blending of live and sampled instrumentation is what sets him apart in a genre that all too often pits the two against each other, and hopefully ‘Mind Bokeh’ will be the album that elevates him into a wider collective consciousness.
‘Mind Bokeh’ is out now on Warp.