Bibio is one of the most natural talented songwriters in the country. A musician seemingly capable of turning his hand to almost anything, the Warp artist – real name Stephen Wilkinson – can move from blistering electronics to opaque folk hymnals in the space of an album.
With a catalogue that now stretches well over a decade, you could be forgiven to wondering if Bibio still has unknown stretches on the map left to fill. Pleasingly, new album ‘Ribbons’ now only confirms his exploratory nature, but also underlines his often overlooked melodic touch.
Essentially rooting his compositions in the guitar, Bibio carefully treats the instrument with effects, adding an aura of the uncanny to his folk meditations, a sense of the sublime to his psychedelic resources. ‘Beret Girl’ is a cute opener, a track laced with innocence, while the folk ramble on ‘Curls’ carries within it the promise of Spring.
‘Ode To A Nuthatch’ has a taste of the heavenly, matching found sounds to Stephen Wilkinson’s dexterous folk flourishes – think John Renbourne’s 60s output left to grow wild in some faraway fairy patch and you’d be close.
That isn’t to say that ‘Ribbons’ is simply a wyrd folk record, though. ‘Old Graffiti’ has a raw sense of funk, but it’s delivered in a wonderfully straight-laced, typically English fashion, like some old library recording or a Dr Who party scene in the Jon Pertwee era.
‘You Couldn’t Even Hear The Birds Singing’ dispenses with the guitar to focus on the effects, a kind of dub methodology, an inversion of his working methods. ‘Pretty Ribbons And Lovely Flowers’ is a sojourn into the unknown, one of the album’s darkest moments, and certainly its most experimental.
It’s the folk moments on ‘Ribbons’ that ring clearest, though; from the deft technical skills that drive ‘Patchouli May’ to the Autumnal tomes that linger on ‘Under A Lone Ash’ the record is a wonderfully pastoral, organic listen, one that is true to the countryside as it is experienced, rather than observed.
A record that focuses on fleeting glimpses, on liminal evenings and burgeoning mornings, it’s imbued with sublime melodic flair and a lingering atmosphere that echoes after the final note has been plucked gracefully from Bibio’s well-served guitar.
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