Bibio – Mind Bokeh

Allen Huang / April 8, 2011

Score: 8.2/10
Warp Records
Bibio on MySpace
Purchase: Amazon

If Music were baseball, we’d be checking Stephen Wilkinson’s blood for HGH. Prior to 2009, Wilkinson (better known as Bibio) was primarily known for his ability to mimic the textures of electronica darlings Boards of Canada. His output, while pleasant, was fairly banal, stepping into a niche that had been carved out long ago. After a prolonged, 3 year sabbatical, the producer has been on an absolute tear putting out two and a half records in less than eleven months.  His Warp records debut, Ambivalence Avenue, was a breakthrough album for the UK-based sonic artist and found the typically ambient-leaning composer branching out into more flamboyant song structures, diving deep into the rich history of pop music and most importantly, finding obvious joy in the process.

His latest album, Mind Bokeh, continues this narrative of growth, and harkens back to similarly ambitious, cross-over producers that have come before him. When Wilkinson describes Mind Bokeh as “a balance of the familiar and the non-familiar,” he isn’t talking about the album’s scope in a personal sense. Similar to RJD2’s Deadringer, Mind Bokeh travels the beaten path of rock, pop, soul and funk but with a completely novel and confident new gait. From the album’s opening seconds, the ideas come a mile-a-minute, switching gears multiple times a song to entertaining effect. Like his previous albums, Bibio expertly juggles his thought processes with nary a misstep.

Mind Bokeh plays hopscotch all over the modern electronic music atlas, dipping its toes in multiple micro-genres while still retaining Bibio’s construction imprints. “Light Seep,” with its deliciously decadent synth solos and bedroom-lite disco funk, sounds like it could’ve fallen out of chillwaver Toro Y Moi’s pocket. “Take Off Your Shirt,” a jarringly straight-forward, sample-built rock song, finds Bibio doing his best Phoenix impression and succeeding with flying colors. Title track “Mind Bokeh” inhabits a space carved out by the night-humming, blog-buzzing artists of the post-dubstep movement. “Pretentious” shines with a dub-inflected stutter step and a playful sense of humor that most electronic musicians would be hesitant to engage in. And the Tropicalia tinged “K is for Kelson” is, for lack of a better word, joyous.

If there’s any one thing wrong with Mind Bokeh, it’s that it might be a bit too eclectic to take in all at once.  Finalizing the sequencing of this album must have been impossible; there’s no obvious way to organize the twelve tracks on this album without running rings around the listener. It’s not surprising that an album so full of ideas and experimentation just can’t sit still. The variety of sounds is also somewhat spoiling. When Wilkinson returns to earlier themes on “More Excuses,” the song seems much more drawn out than it actually is simply because things have been so rapid-fire up until this point.

Mind Bokeh is no niche album and likewise, Bibio is no one-trick pony. Wilkinson again has shown a surprising amount of flexibility, given the rigidity of his first LPs. And while the album conceptually fires on all cylinders, there’s enough wit in the craftsmanship involved to keep the listener engaged through the more eccentric moments. With an ability to ping-pong between textures and genres at will, Bibio never loses the reins and it’s this measured, deliberate control that makes all the difference.

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