A beautiful return that perhaps lingers a little too long on the surface...
'A Mineral Love'

Initially laborious to work through, the glossiness of Bibio’s seventh studio remained concealed until a fateful walk in the Spring sun. Conventional wisdom suggests that there’s no such thing as seasonal music and that atmosphere is created by the mind of the beholder. However, ‘A Mineral Love’ is best served bathed in light, where its obvious cracks are subverted by illumination.

On the last full length from Mr Wilkinson in 2013, the floral patterns that peppered its album art were transposed into a bolstering package of rich, vibrant folktronica. On this venture, Bibio has exchanging delicacy and interpretative patterns for full-blooming experimental pop. The rotund and shimmering production relatively dwarfs many of Bibio’s previously releases. Even on the gentle fifths glistening on opener ‘Petals’, the reverb ricochets around the mix pushing the peripheries and creating a larger stature than we’ve heard before.

However, like for someone who lives on the coast, what’s considered magnificent on first exposure, eventually diffuses into normality. The nature allegory can be pushed to no bounds with ‘A Mineral World’ like the gentle tempest of ‘Raxeria’ connoting a rainy Sunday aft or the cool dusk breeze of Gotye redemption track ‘The Way You Talk’.

‘Town And Country’, on the other hand, loses the organic backdrop in substitute for structure. Focused through an apex where sprightly meets captivating, the loose grooves and lounge-style guitar are layered with enough rhythmic and melodic depth to beckon revisits while retaining the continuity of ‘natural relaxation’.

Where ‘A Mineral World’ delivers the goods in the promised experimental categories are hybrid tracks like ‘Feeling’ which, after the soupy density of the opening cuts, the mire of saccharin starts to fade. With J Dilla soul squelches and Floridian sax, Bibio breaks from his Kevin Parker vocal mould atop buoyant Thundercat bass tones. The same variety shines through on ‘With The Thought Of Us’ where G-funk beats are metamorphosed through latin tones on the leading synth.

And yet, despite the vast flavours Bibio is presenting throughout this record, so much of the quality production is slighted by tracing the same predictable frequencies and manoeuvres as so many servile songwriters leagues below have made prospering careers out of.

When complexity commanders the yoke from the organic, ‘A Mineral World’ reaches its solstice. The shuffling free-jazz guitar of ‘Saint Thomas’ is a poignant display of Bibio’s ability to make beautiful moments from subtle modifications. However, the terse reality of this album is that production is polished to such a degree that it leaves no edge or crevasse available to latch onto.

6/10

Words: Will Butler

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