A suitably spectral collection…
'Phantom Brickworks'

The time for summer jams and budget flights is over. During these cold wet evenings, a more meditative selection is needed for your ear, and Bibio has the answer. 'Phantom Brickworks' sees the West-Midland’s native ditch his more folktronica leanings in order to release his most ambient record yet. Having spent the best part of his career marrying wonked out guitars with found sounds and organic textures, this new collection sees the multi-instrumentalist going fully sparse in a way only hinted at before.

Mainly improvised, these nine tracks explore the idea of location and atmosphere, how incidents both natural and manmade can alter the very feeling of a place. Simply put, it deals with what it means to be haunted. This is not a record themed around literal ghosts of course, nor is it a soundtrack for a horror; rather it's an exploration of an emotive feeling we largely ignore. When a place feels tangibly heavy with past deeds.

Successful it is too. By largely ignoring traditional melodic structures Bibio allows the tracks to breathe, providing a space where gentle piano lines and percussion can constantly weave in and out of the mix, drifting by as if in a dream. It certainly helps conjure a mood, distorted drones often breaking through a wall of wild tracks and mystery sounds. The project's purely instrumental nature also helps hold the whole thing stick together, lyrics far too solid a thing to be included tonally.

You definitely feel there is much-shared DNA with Aphex Twin's 'Selected Ambient Works II', a label mate and influence. While Bibio's approach is notably more naturalistic - less alien and fiendishly ginger - the same sense of nostalgia and loss remains. It's a gentle journey, the slightly menacing 'Pantglas' proving the only time the train truly stops in Spooksville or ups the ante. A fine cut for a Halloween party.

Living up to its title, ‘Phantom Brickworks’ proves a spectral set, a fragile sounding record that confidently conveys the intent of its creator. It may not win him any new fans, and old fans may even be puzzled at the lack of sunny beats seen on last year’s ‘A Mineral Love’, but it still stands as a great escape for those who like to get lost in sound rather than riffs.

7/10

Words: Sam Walker-Smart

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