After what many now consider to be a sprawling banner year for Bibio’s Stephen Wilkinson – a year that not only found the self-taught producer growing by leaps and bounds – there wasn’t much else to conquer. Usually, when you get one good album from an artist then you mostly take it and run but when you get two great albums, well, now we’re just getting greedy. However, things change when you hit a creative peak where not only are all of your ideas being brought forward to fruition but they’re winning in every possible way.
And starting right where Ambivalence Avenue left off, Wilkinson’s strides on his inspired high with The Apple and the Tooth are again, an exceptional thing to witness. This new release (neither EP nor LP because of both content and length) is equipped with new originals by Wilkinson that are all in the same vein of that second 2009 album, along with remixes by some of his greatest and most talented friends. Each song is carefully constructed and built with the best set of ears on every attentive aspect. Even Bibio’s remix of his own song, “Palm of Your Wave,” takes the original and expands it, slows it down and turns it into a splendidly wonderful closer.
But what’s so terrific about all of this and more so, exceptional, is that left alone, these were already great songs. Now, with new touches and new hands to play with them, they turn into awesomely perfected gems. Wax Stag’s remix of “Sugarette” is hands down, the best one of the batch. The album version is lamented by reserved backdrops that shy away from the spotlight but here, Wax Stag turns it into a sparkling, stunning, starlight flash of a beauty. The energy is propelled by the high-pitched vocals but mostly, it’s a dauntingly flawless remix. Shining with spacious beats and synths that gleam with an effervescent spark, it glistens for six minutes of bubbly love.
Wilkinson began 2009 with Vignetting the Compost’s pastoral spring feel. It was an album that was so reserved and hushed that it begged for repeated listens. For most, this quaint beauty was more than enough and it revealed a highly progressive side to Wilkinson’s music. He then followed it with his brilliant Ambivalence Avenue, an album that was created specifically for headphones. Crackling with hip-hop beats and focused, layered patterns, it was a few steps up from where he had begun the year – there was definite growth going on here. Now, with this collection of new and remixed songs, it’s not so much another step up but an effective “yes” to everything Wilkinson accomplished in 2009.
The 1-2 punch that begins the album, the title track and “Rotten Rudd,” almost sound like a combination swelter of both of Wilkinson’s 2009 albums. Still lo-fi in demeanor, by the time the overpowering beats show up – jagged and stomping – Wilkinson’s voice and his carefully picked guitar add unique flickers. The latter, beginning with a direct concentration on slowing things down, is a misty, hazy trance that loses itself with its excelling drums. There’s exciting moments all over, everything from Leatherette’s remix of “Lovers’ Carving,” that turns it into a fresh, hip-hop jam complete with vibes, to Lone’s dubstep makeover of “All the Flowers,” are welcoming and welcome transpositions.
For someone that already had a successful year even before 2009, Wilkinson couldn’t have drawn up a better outcome to the end of his decade. He’s proven himself with three releases of downright excellent music that goes down easy without ever getting old. He’s done it in his own way: sincere, melodic, creative and impressively. And he’s fully worthy of all the praise he will garner at the end of all of it: what a year Bibio, congrats.