There are certain sounds that hit you in a big way. The music itself isn’t big, but it somehow feels large-scale and modest at the same time. Oversized sounds are prevalent these days; sometimes, we just need a little nudge. For enigmatic producer Bibio, however, his method has been anything but subtle. He tends to throw all kinds of sounds into one set, making it tough to categorize his genre-hopping aesthetic. Bibio clearly loves hip-hop and electronica, but he’s rarely been able to properly merge the two.
On Silver Wilkinson, his seventh album, the producer keeps a moderate pace with airy electro-folk. He brightens the tranquility with danceable songs that bridge his creative affinities: On ‘À tout à l'heure,’ he fuses acoustic guitars with foot-stomping drums. On ‘You,’ Bibio does his best J Dilla impression, slathering layers of accelerated vocal chops atop head-nodding percussion. In years past, he might have given in to his experimental side; on Silver Wilkinson, he achieves stellar results by keeping things simple. After each creative twist, Bibio quickly returns to Silver’s ambient core.
His previous effort, 2011’s Mind Bokeh, was far more ambitious. Though the composer kept things lively with stilted electro-pop and breezy dance grooves, it blended too many concepts into one pot and was a bit too wandering. Perhaps on purpose then, Silver Wilkinson is Bokeh’s polar opposite. ‘If there was a preconceived idea before this album started coming together, it was a fairly vague one,’ Bibio says about his new work. ‘To focus more on an organic and live sound and to record more guitar and other live instrumentation.’ With ‘Mirroring All,’ for instance, the music is haunting, Bibio’s vocals a mere supplement to his murky composition. It methodically transitions to something more modern—acoustic guitars underpin glitchy synthesizers and electronic drums. Throughout Silver, in fact, Bibio blends his voice behind layers of muted strings.
From the opening chords of ‘The First Daffodils’ to the nimble strums of ‘You Won’t Remember,’ there’s an overwhelming sense of calm here. ‘Wulf’’s watery conclusion and ‘Raincoat’’s single-engine plane sample help make Silver Wilkinson the soundtrack of your next exotic vacation, or your morning walk along a grassy field. Its humble DIY ethos is charmingly retro, its most inconspicuous moments—‘Sycamore Silhouetting,’ ‘Dye the Water Green’—recall Simon & Garfunkel. This is atmospheric mood music, an aural elixir for the pondering soul.
So while it’s still tough to classify his sound, Silver Wilkinson is Bibio’s most streamlined recording to date. It resonates without making much noise. After years of tinkering with different sonic themes, it seems an understated approach works best.
8Marcus J. Moore's Score