Review Summary: Bibio paints in watercolors.
Who would’ve thought? English producer Stephen Wilkinson aka Bibio releases another album that bears little resemblance to any that came before. In case you missed the obvious, it comes with a handy signal: Mind Bokeh
, his sixth album, is named after that particular photographic phenomenon of the blur, a singular aesthetic which goes hand in hand with Wilkinson’s genre-bending tendencies. “Folktronica” is a terrible term, but with 2009’s Ambivalence Avenue
Wilkinson was well on his way to abandoning any and all genre tags. Mind Bokeh
, thankfully, makes it even harder to pigeonhole the eclectic producer, running the gamut as it does from soothing chillwave to electric jazz-lounge to jangly funk. Describing Mind Bokeh
is an exercise in futility itself – those adjectives I just threw up are about as handy to understanding Bibio as a catchall term as horrific as “electronica” is.
No, Mind Bokeh
is much more about the feeling in the moment, the way opener “Excuses” slowly builds itself up through an ominous glitch rhythm before deconstructing into a proper jam, or how “Anything New” calls to mind the sounds and sights of summer better than anything I’ve heard all year. Bibio has a truly masterful ability to slide from melody to hook and then all back again through a different prism, seemingly effortlessly. Nowhere is this more apparent than “Pretentious,” which bleeds together all of Bibio’s wonderfully disparate sounds into a cocktail of dark instrumentals, slow motion funk, and Destroyer-esque retro jazz saxophone. It’s as colorful as it sounds, and it makes for an album where one can never quite know what to expect next.
Even Wilkinson doesn’t know what to expect next, evidently: “Take Off Your Shirt,” a nod to Thin Lizzy but one that comes off more like a poor man’s Phoenix rip off, sounds absolutely nothing like anything that comes before and after, and the record’s flow suffers a bit for it. Neither does Mind Bokeh
proffer up anything as terrific as “Fire Ant” from Ambivalence Avenue
, but neither does it need to. Mind Bokeh
is content to be that comedown album from the summer party, perfectly happy to let something like “Light Seep,” which sounds like the ideal soundtrack to a ‘70s porno (this is a good thing), cozy up to the soulful harmonies on “Wake Up!” and the twisted rhythms and looped guitar sample of “Artists’ Valley.” Nowhere is this more obvious than on the final track, a skittering six-minute opus through Bibio’s washed-out soundscapes. Crackled samples and increasingly complicated loops are tossed and turned amidst a sea of fuzz, a stunning reminder of the simplicity of letting the music speak for itself. “St. Christopher” is a bit of a microcosm of the album as a whole, the one track that best symbolizes the bokeh of the title and the musical blur that pervades Mind Bokeh
and the rest of Bibio’s discography. It’s also a reminder never to predict where Wilkinson is going to go next, because you’ll probably just end up looking like a fool.