Bibio – Silver Wilkinson (2013)

Bibio’s 7th LP Silver Wilkinson, recently released on the famous Warp label.

cover

I think following this release I’m not going to listen to any singles in anticipation of an upcoming album. Oh who am I kidding, that’s a lie, but “A tout a l’heure”, the single dropped a couple of months before this release, certainly garnered a lot of attention and hype somewhat inappropriately. It’s an excellent track but unfortunately it also happens to be better by quite a margin, and is not exactly representative of the sonic style of the album overall.

Sweet, downtempo opener “The First Daffodils” introduces us to the downtempo and largely melancholic sound of Silver Wilkinson with its emulated vinyl sound and lightweight, syncopated guitars. Like much of the album it has a submerged warmth lying just beneath the surface; “Dye The Water Green” chases this sound up and focuses strongly on the low-fidelity Folk that filled much of Bibio’s early career, but at over 5 minutes long it feels a little excessive; there’s a logical ending at about 3:30 minutes as it fades out, but it continues for another two just without lyrics and instead on some aqueous acoustics. It’s not bad by any means, but it does feel unnecessary.

This unnecessary-but-not-unpleasant-ness continues in the watery ambience of the seaside “Wulf” before getting juxtaposed against the comparatively less lightweight “Mirroring All”, another Folk lead track in a similar vein to “Dye The Water Green” but the only thing that really determines its somewhat less than optimistic attitude is its key and slow-beats as opposed to its lyrical content, which although present is barely audible over the sound of the guitar. It doesnt make sense then that this first third of the album relies so heavily on downtempo acoustic ambience and waffling only to be chased up by “A tout a l’heure”, a solid and intelligently crafted Folktronic/Pop single that is as catchy as it is bright. The more I think about its optimistic summertime attitude the less I think it makes sense as part of this album.

“Sycamore Silhouetting” is another example of this filler; why have such a beautiful and upbeat track like “A tout a l’heure” at the heart of the album and then sandwich it against these depressive ambient interludes? It’s not that they’re not pretty or anything but it just feels like they havent taken any effort to put together really. Now “You” is a track I can get behind again; not exactly as bombastic as the lead single, and it does admittedly break the convention of the album yet again with its Glitch Pop vibe, but its chopped vocals and wet synths are fun and interesting, if a little overlong, again crossing the 5 minutes boundary when 3 or at most 4 will do as it fades out prematurely only to be replaced by acoustic ambience for apparently no reason.

As “Raincoat” and the last few tracks begin to roll in I begin to feel my attention and motivation waning; “Look at Orion!” keeps me going for a bit longer I’ll concede, bringing back some of that sweet electronica I loved from Mind Bokeh, so much so that I don’t even bat an eyelid at the 7 minute duration; its fundamental sound in fact coming from the finalé of the previous album “Saint Christopher”, but with a new downtempo lilt and a more cutesy, nostalgic feel. But it is, sadly, the last bastion of my interest in the album as the obnoxious and discordant “Business Park” rolls in and the pleasant but ultimately uninteresting guitar led closer “You Won’t Remember…” finishes the album; it’s actually quite a beautiful finish but after this 50 minute slog it will take more than that to pique my interest.

Bibio suffers from what I like to call the “Emancipator Syndrome”, that is to say the work he produces is inherently not terrible, and the albums themselves are largely quite lovely and interesting affairs, but there is typically only one, perhaps two, truly standout tracks and the rest is mostly just polite, harmless and unobtrusive filler. It isn’t a bad album, far from it in fact, but I find it difficult to find an album with such a lack of cohesion to be something that will hold my interest over one listen let alone many future listens. It’s disappointng to me that once again Bibio hasn’t been able to make a coherent release; perhaps the flak from Mind Bokeh made him slow down a little for this (to his detriment).

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