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Following his ambient atmospheric project, Phantom Brickworks, Stephen Wilkinson returns as Bibio to the path of structured songwriting last explored on A Mineral Love (2016). New album Ribbons yields folkloric charm with an organic palette, incorporating a mostly acoustic-led approach exploring ‘60s and ‘70s psychedelia, soul, ambient, electronic and field recordings.
A self-taught musician, singer and producer, he plays nearly all of the instrumental parts on the album and unveils new instruments to his palette, bringing in mandolins, fiddle and other stringed instruments which give a new flavour to his music. But, while the sonics of the album are based around acoustic and other traditional instruments, the title Ribbons is extracted from the most electronic-leaning track on the album: “Pretty Ribbons And Lovely Flowers”. On the track, haunting, processed female vocals illuminate a route through dark ambience and a repeating earthy distorted chord sequence. Referencing the endless ribbons of analogue tape and film used in his music, photography and cinematic work, the album artwork is designed by Wilkinson, where his portrait offers a window onto an English woodland scene with spring bluebells adorned with ribbons.
The songs presented here often rely on melodic lines, like those used in lead single “Curls”, to define rhythm and groove rather than the definite pulse of percussion. There are however a few exceptions, like the ‘70s soul inspired “Before” and the Brazilian-influenced shuffling brushes groove of “Old Graffiti”. The weaving and overlapping guitar lines in instrumental tracks like “Valley Wulf” never stray too far from the grain of folk and storytelling with which this album is so cohesively tied together. Tracks such as “Ode To A Nuthatch” find Wilkinson exploring his signature sound of tape-saturated fingerpicked guitar, but with a melodic and harmonic maturity that makes Ribbons a definite evolution of this unique style.
Wilkinson’s folk influences span ‘60s and ‘70s styles from Britain, Ireland and America; he mixes influences of homegrown acid folk with the dreamy harmonies of its Californian counterpart. He also pays homage to his past J Dilla and Madlib inspired works, this time drawing influence from the eras and records those producers sampled, such as ‘60s and ‘70s Dionne Warwick, Dee Dee Sharp and other soul artists, but rather than relying on sampling records, Wilkinson creates his homages from scratch with appropriate instrumentation. With his latest album Ribbons, Wilkinson oscillates between genres, pairing the unknown with the familiar and moving forward in a way that only he knows how to.
A1. Beret Girl
A2. The Art Of Living
B1. Ode To A Nuthatch
B2. Watch The Flies
B3. It’s Your Bones
B4. You Couldn’t Even Hear The Birds Singing
C1. Pretty Ribbons And Lovely Flowers
C3. Frankincense And Coal
C4. Old Graffiti
D1. Patchouli May
D2. Valley Wulf
D4. Under A Lone Ash