Often, the further in one gets, the harder it is to come back out. Once you’ve delved so deeply into one particular thing – hobbies, careers, women – the commitment reaches a new high and suddenly, you’ve dug yourself a pretty deep hole. That isn’t to say that any one of those are bad things but, certainly, one should always maintain plenty of choices to choose from. For Bibio’s Stephen Wilkinson, 2009 was a year that found him with multiple releases that all seemed to travel different roads. There was the gentle quietness of Vignetting the Compost and then there was the lush orchestration of Ambivalence Avenue. And, sometime after that, was a remix album with newer tracks still; and each separate release was just that: a separate entity.
What many have seemingly faltered at, Bibio was able to accomplish in one brief year: being able to release entirely dissimilar albums where one could stretch, dig and bury themselves in, while still finding a way to be absolutely distinctive. With his latest release, Mind Bokeh, Wilkinson digs himself into an even wider opening with an album that features a far worldlier, instrumental vibe. There’s a definite new feel to an album by Bibio in 2011; while many of the singular trademarks remain, there are choice additions that make for another triumph of a release for the British producer.
The album’s opening moments on “Excuses” laments an understated bass melody and atmospheric blends before Wilkinson enters with lonely verses about being misunderstood and misaligned. The album focuses the shift onto the compositional side of music as Wilkinson has fully embraced the sounds that are possible ‘around the beats.’ Like many of his contemporaries – Bonobo, Flying Lotus and others – Bibio has always melded the best kind of head-changing beats with trembling ease. There are plenty of bumping, almost dubstep, feelings all over the album and, while the bigness is never in question, there is a lot more attention to altering the sound into something headier and, for Wilkinson, it works wonders.
There are some challenging new sounds, like the rock emphasis on “Take off Your Shirt.” Wilkinson’s vocals sound cunningly gritty and the live vibe is a great touch. But once you travel into “Artists’ Valley”’s laid-back beats and synth-heavy rhythms you realize that, as in travel, Mind Bokeh is a diverse journey of swirling beats. Wilkinson’s work inside the huge spectrum of electronic music is one that has encompassed different styles and ranges and, as on the aforementioned song, there is a multitude of influences that grace all of Bibio’s music. Songs that swell into instrumental wonders seem to be the heaviest hitters with changes in tempo, style, tone and even – within songs – genre. As with much of Wilkinson’s prior music the style never really mattered but, more so, just how good it sounds.
Even the menacing tones on “Pretentious” sound entirely fitting under Bibio’s massive umbrella. Over time, Wilkinson has adapted his excellent abilities to whatever he happened to be into at the time. It’s obvious that Wilkinson is able to deeply immerse himself into new love without ever losing grip of everything else; Mind Bokeh is definitely a transcendent piece of music and one that incorporates a myriad of terrific fusions – everything’s built around Wilkinson’s tremendous ideas that never seem to fall short.